Kane, PA: Becoming a Gateway Through Branding

The team from Kane, Pennsylvania, attended the 2019 Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative workshop in Bristol, Tennessee, with a specific goal in mind— to establish a town brand for their small community tucked away in the Pennsylvania Wilds. Fifteen miles from Allegheny State Park and Kinzua Bridge State Park, the community of Kane had started to see an increase in tourism in the years leading up to the workshop, thanks to an ongoing downtown revitalization project. As a result, the team wanted to develop and consolidate their burgeoning town’s image.

Attending the workshop validated the team’s vision for their community. On seeing other communities’ branding efforts and hearing from professionals in the field, they realized that creating a town brand was a worthwhile and achievable goal. According to Kane team lead Kate Kennedy, one of the most helpful aspects of the workshop was having time and space dedicated to putting their heads together and working through their plan. The Kane team realized another workshop benefit by connecting with one of the speakers, Ben Muldrow, a designer with a specialty in regional branding.

Following the workshop, the Kane team received a $5,000 seed grant through the Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative program, which played a critical role in bringing forth their $8,000 branding project. Although their timeline did impose challenges for Muldrow’s travel, by October 2020 he had visited the community and was ready to begin work on its branding.

Listening to the community was a critical first step for Muldrow. Town members were clearly excited about the idea of updated branding, given that Muldrow’s survey for community members was able to gather the thoughts and opinions of a large sample of 800 respondents from Kane. In keeping with the culture of local pride which Muldrow discovered through the survey, Kane’s new brand, released for public use in December 2020, integrates Kane’s high school colors (red and blue) as well as their pre-existing slogan, “A Star in the Forest.”

While design projects are often divisive, Kennedy said that the reception of the new branding has been almost universally positive, in part thanks to Kane’s community pride. The new branding is freely available to any who request it and has been used by a number of local organizations including the Borough, Police Department, Chamber of Commerce, and various local businesses. The team is also working alongside the local high school to adopt the branding. Kennedy noted that the logo has been so well received that some entrepreneurial locals have begun printing their own Kane merchandise at home, a venture which the town has supported by freely providing them with branding guides.

During the workshop, the team decided that the brand would serve a dual function of uniting the community and signifying Kane as a destination for tourism. This was especially relevant economically, since Kane’s gateway status was an underutilized economic asset. Since tourism has the potential to play a large role in Kane’s growing economy, establishing a destination brand has been an important step towards defining Kane’s overall goals. Several new tourism attractions have been developed in Kane in recent years, including a world-class, energy-efficient “passive house,” which has been featured in international publications, as well as a dōTERRA essential oil production tour.

In terms of future goals, Kane has a number of developments on the horizon, including an expansion of brand-inclusive signage and the development of a new town website. While the website was one of the initial goals following the seed grant, COVID-related challenges caused it to be delayed until a contract for its creation was signed in recent weeks. The Pennsylvania Wilds is also working to build its first brick-and-mortar location on Kane’s Main Street, joining the ever-growing local business community. Thanks to the seed grant for brand development, Kane is becoming a destination for businesses and tourists alike, united under a distinctive town brand.