Some residents in the Pioneer Valley have taken umbrage with a new rebranding effort that strips the three-county region of its longtime moniker in favor of an ostensibly hipper alternative — “West Mass.”
A petition on Change.org titled, “Stop ‘West Mass’ and Keep The Pioneer Valley!” contends that there’s no benefit to renaming the area, which includes Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.
“West Mass is awkward on the tongue,”one person wrote on the petition, which has been signed by 165 supporters. “Pioneer Valley is a name that reminds tourists and citizens just how historic the area is. Don’t waste your money or time.”
The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts teamed up last year to hire a creative agency from Oklahoma to come up with a new name, part of a broader marketing campaign to attract new visitors, residents, and businesses to the area.
“It obviously is somewhat of a more modern, shorter version of ‘Western Mass.,’ ” said Rick Sullivan, president and chief executive of the development council. “We are not saying people have to change, and if they like another place locater like Pioneer Valley, or a county or a city name, they are free to do that. But the whole campaign is reflective of the region and everything we have here in terms of quality of life.”
The campaign does not include Berkshire County, a popular destination that Sullivan said has “their own thing going on.”
Overall feedback has been “good and has been positive,” Sullivan said. But like most things new and different “there are those who don’t like it.”
The name was unveiled earlier this month during an event at Mill 1 at Open Square, a mixed-use development in Holyoke, and was accompanied by a snappy video meant to capture the essence of each of the three counties.
But like the term “West Mass,” the video, created by Porterhouse Media, a Holyoke production company, isn’t sitting well with some people.
“Embarrassing video. No one will ever call it West Mass,” one person wrote in a YouTube comment. “You should see the look on people’s faces when they see this video.”
The two-minute video features techo music and autotuned vocals, and opens with a turquoise shooting star that explodes into the words “West Mass.” The sequence is reminiscent of the opening credits of the television show Reading Rainbow.
At the bottom of the screen appear words like “assertive,” “stake in the ground,” and “modesty.”It ends with spliced audio that forms the phrase, “You never know what you’re going to see in the 413,” the region’s area code.
The two groups spent $80,000 on the logo, language, and artwork for the rebranding initiative, and an additional $5,000 on the video. There is also a social media component and a website that describes West Mass as “the land of Modern Mavericks.”
Michele Goldberg, director of marketing for the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the video was a tool to help unveil the campaign and give attendees “a feel for the branding elements and what the region is known for.”
Shorter versions of the video will likely be used on social media and possibly in television spots.
As for the name change, she said none of the major attractions in the region are using Pioneer Valley, so it made sense to try something new.
“Research shows consistently that the name ‘Pioneer Valley’ doesn’t resonate with a ton of visitors,” she said. “And they assume we are some place in the Midwest.”
That’s West Mass, to you.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.