The criticism came swiftly and with force.
And the Pioneer Valley business leaders who pitched the idea of branding their part of the state as “West Mass” — which they thought was snappier and more forward-thinking — never saw it coming.
Now, the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., the two groups behind the campaign, say they are temporarily putting the new name on ice.
On Wednesday, the groups began seeking input with a new public survey of feelings about their alternative, one that is supposed to attract businesses, tourists, and residents to the region.
“We are taking a pause,” said Rick Sullivan, president of the economic development council. “Our boards have directed us to do some outreach, and get some additional data, and that’s what we are doing.”
The survey responses will be analyzed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Sullivan said, before the two groups officially move ahead with their branding efforts.
Future plans, based on the data, could include holding on to their original vision, or opting for the more familiar “Western Mass.”
“The data is going to dictate where we go here,” Sullivan said.
The controversy over “West Mass” boiled over in February, after the moniker — and an accompanying video — was unveiled during an event at Mill 1 at Open Square, a mixed-use development in Holyoke.
The visitors bureau and the economic development council teamed up and hired a creative agency from Oklahoma to come up with the overall concept.
They tapped Porterhouse Media, a Holyoke production company, to create the video.
The video used buzz words like “assertive,” “stake in the ground,” and “modesty,” mixed with flashy colors and techno music to describe the message they wanted to send about the region.
Some $80,000 was spent on the “West Mass” logo, language, and artwork for the initiative. An additional $5,000 went into the video.
But for some in the Pioneer Valley area, which includes Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties, “West Mass” completely missed the mark.
Others said the plan seemed to materialize out of thin air, and arrive at their doorsteps without much input from the public. (There were focus groups, board meetings, and an online survey conducted to boost the effort.)
Eventually, a petition criticizing “West Mass” surfaced, as people began to poke fun at the term. By April, more than 1,500 people had signed it.
While Sullivan said he was “clearly” surprised by the level of pushback, he was also impressed by how fervent residents were about the issue.
He’s hoping that people can channel that energy and provide useful feedback through the survey.
“Ultimately, what we are attempting to do is create some excitement and tell people outside the region that there are opportunities here,” he said. “We are asking people to get involved and express their passion, and hopefully help build a brand in western Mass.”Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.