Bellingen Shire Branding Strategy Explained


The Bellingen Shire Branding Project is an important project for Bellingen Shire. The project aims to create a destination brand that is 100% Bellingen Shire, one that defines the essence of our Shire, which is being developed through meaningful discussion with the community. The brand will capture who we are, reveal something about our special ‘place’, and reflect our cultural, social and environmental values. It will help to frame the future of our Shire, for the community, business and tourism.

The project is funded by the Federal Government’s Bushfire Recovery and Economic Resilience Grants Program.

In 2019, Bellingen Shire Council withdrew from their tourism marketing relationship with Coffs Harbour City Council, meaning that the Bellingen Shire is no longer branded under the Coffs Coast brand. This was a decision that the Council made in consultation with the three Chambers of Commerce (Urunga/Mylestom, Dorrigo and Bellingen). The Bellingen Shire Branding Project has come about as a result of that change in tourism management. Fisher Design + Architecture was, engaged by Council in November 2020 to undertake the branding project. Fisher Design + Architecture partner Anna Fisher is leading a team of local design and tourism professionals that includes John Morse AM, artist Brentyn Lugnan, and designers Lisa Daley and Dee Crichton.

The first part of the development of the brand involves extensive engagement with the community and stakeholders throughout January and February 2021, and will include discussions with the following groups:

  • The Bellingen Shire Community
  • Environmental Groups
  • National Parks & Wildlife Services
  • Great Koala National Park
  • Festival and Market Organisers
  • Indigenous Elders, Local Aboriginal Land Councils and other Indigenous community members
  • Visitor Information Centre staff
  • Chambers of Commerce (Urunga, Dorrigo, Bellingen)
  • Tourism operators
  • Youth groups
  • Bellingen Shire Councillors and Mayor


A key focus for Council is to ensure development of a truly inclusive destination. In addition to the Bellingen Shire Branding Project, Council is currently in the process of developing an Inclusive Tourism Strategy. The Branding Project will reflect the findings of the Inclusive Tourism Strategy around community ideals for inclusivity and accessibility.

The development of a Bellingen Shire Tourism Brand was identified as a high priority recommendation in the Bellingen Shire Signage Strategy (Adopted Nov 2019). The Strategy established the need to develop a ‘Bellingen Shire brand identity’ before implementation of essential components of the Signage Strategy such as town and Shire entry signage could be carried out. The development of a Bellingen Shire Tourism Brand ensures that any new signage will be developed with a consistent and considered approach, that will reflect our Shire in the best possible way.



Countries, cities and regions have been undertaking brand studies and strategies since the 90s. Australia was the first in the world.

In simple terms, ‘brand’ refers to the physical, emotional and spiritual elements which identify a place in people’s minds. It is what visitors think of a place, and importantly, what we think of ourselves. In Bellingen Shire, this is something that should be guided and managed by the community - otherwise, it will be done for us by outsiders.

A brand is not just a logo. A logo is just one part of the ‘brand identity’, and captures the brand values. The Bellingen Shire brand identity should be a unique and compelling reflection of our Shire – one that embodies the diversity of our people and place. It should allow for incorporation of distinctive visual components that reflect the varying characteristics of our towns and locations, and our diverse people and culture, whilst still presenting a unified and identifiable Bellingen Shire brand.

Developing a Bellingen Shire ‘brand’ is NOT about big marketing campaigns, or unlimited growth and maximum numbers - it’s about looking at the optimum combination of economic yield  and visitor numbers. It’s about managing the development of tourism which is sustainable and responsible.

Creating a brand that captures our ‘Spirit of Place’ will appeal to visitors who are sensitive to the social, cultural and environmental values of this place and our people - ‘Aspirational Travellers’ who want to tread gently on the land, and leave a place better than when they arrived. What if we could get every visitor to our Shire to plant a tree? Or

be inspired to start a community garden in their city suburb, or eat only locally sourced organic produce?



Many places around the world are concerned about ‘over-tourism’, which can damage culture, turn it into a commodity, cause local stress, create pollution and have other negative influences. For example, Barcelona, Mt Everest, and Machu Picchu are all victims of over-tourism. The prime example of this in Bellingen Shire is at the Never Never River in peak holiday season. To not determine your own brand on a long-term basis gives permission to others to do it for you - just look at Byron Bay and Bali.

A well–developed brand for the Shire can achieve many things:

  • increased community cohesion, understanding and respect for each other
  • enhanced connections between people and our culture, heritage and local environment
  • encourage a greater sense of belonging
  • positively influence growth and responsible tourism
  • attract like-minded visitors
  • provide a vehicle for business to grow, and attract new sustainable business to the Shire.
  • help prevent ‘over-tourism’
  • maintain the strong existing Bellingen Shire culture from being overtaken by visitors
  • create social and economic benefits via partnerships.

Encouraging people to explore more, take a slower pace, and enjoy longer stays, will benefit all the towns and outer areas of our Shire - not just Bellingen township itself. The plateau and the coastal seaboard need not be seen as just day trips, but as places to take the time to stay and enjoy. This can also help take the pressure off over- visited areas by encouraging dispersal.


The tourism industry in Australia:

  • employs 660,000 people
  • makes up 3.3% of GDP (gross domestic product)
  • contributes $60 billion to the economy each year

According to ABS Figures, tourism in Bellingen Shire alone contributes around $65.7 million to the local economy each year.

Tourism has changed drastically across the world in the past 12 months. In 2019 Australians took over 11 million overseas trips - but in 2020, virtually none. This has resulted in a huge expansion in domestic tourism, and many regional centres in NSW and around the country are experiencing similar increases in visitors as Bellingen Shire.

In 2019, around 9 million international visitors came to the country. In 2020 - again almost none. The economic impact of Covid on top of the bushfires has been immense.

The positive benefits of tourism for Bellingen Shire include:

  • employment (especially for young people - a critical issue in our regional area)
  • facilities that locals can enjoy such as markets, festivals, restaurants, cafés, etc
  • opportunities for sharing of culture Potential and existing negative impacts on the

Bellingen Shire include seasonal over-crowding, over-development, environmental impacts, and the erosion of local culture as has happened at Byron Bay.

Good management of tourism is critical to preserve both the local culture and the very reason people want to visit.

“That which we seek to find, we can so easily destroy, simply by finding it.”




The traditional way of determining target audiences by demographic measures (e.g. age, income etc] is no longer relevant in the new age of travel. The world has changed, with people shifting between different segments, and a new order is emerging, called ‘Aspirational Travellers’.

Aspirational Travellers:

  • are defined by their passion for the acquisition of knowledge
  • use knowledge to make more informed decisions and become better versions of themselves
  • ‘Cultural capitalists’, they spend more on travel, wellbeing and education than on material or luxury goods
  • have a high expectation of sustainability in the brands they buy and are prepared to pay more
  • are not defined by age, gender or income bracket
  • are leaders by example and key drivers of social change
  • aspire to leave a place in better condition than before they arrived
  • are socially responsible and environmentally aware
  • seek authenticity
  • look for adventure and immersion in new experiences and culture

Visiting friends and relatives (VFR)

VFR is a traditionally important market segment for tourism in Australia, both for domestic and international travellers. It is equally important for the Bellingen Shire however it does not require promotion or marketing as this is done by the community as a natural process. The VFR market represents one third of overnight stays in the Bellingen Shire. These visitors come to our Shire primarily to visit friends and family. Branding can offer a useful role in educating these visitors about what is important to our community.



Brand refers to the feelings, perceptions and values, intangible and tangible, held by customers about a product. Destination branding reflects the affinity and connection that locals and visitors have with a place, it’s benefits, attributes and personality.

The brand is what sets destinations apart from others. Many destinations focus on the same descriptors e.g. mountains, rivers and beaches. Bellingen Shire has an opportunity to define who and what we are in a way that sets us apart from others, in a way that has been developed from the thoughts and aspirations of the community.

The following elements of ‘Brand Architecture’ will be developed through the community engagement process undertaken as the first stage of the Bellingen Shire Branding project.



These will be the principles which determine visitor and local responsibilities in building a sustainable, economically beneficial tourism industry in the Bellingen Shire.

Some examples (from the Arnhem Land Masterplan) include:

  • Tourism should never control what happens on country
  • The community wish to share knowledge with people from other places
  • The environment will be respected at all times
  • Tourism should be a positive influence on the people, and provide value
  • Tourism should be a source of pride
  • Tourism must be flexible and fit in with the local culture, not control it.
  • Infrastructure must be not overdone and kept in harmony with the country


“Arnhem Land is a special place and we want the world to visit us and learn about our culture. We have been here for many thousands of years and our culture and our country is still strong. We want to keep it that way and that is why the way Arnhem Land is promoted to the world is very important.

We must be careful to attract only people who are very interested in our ways and want to learn from us as we want to learn from them.”



These are, simply defined, the reasons why people should or would want to visit Bellingen Shire, and the reasons that the locals connect so strongly with this place - the words that represent the Shire. Some examples may include:

Natural, spiritual, cultural, musical, unique, beautiful, organic, diverse…



What are the benefits to both people visiting, and locals? Some examples may include:

Emotional, relaxation, stress removal, connecting with Aboriginal culture, connecting or reconnecting with self, connecting with country, immersion in nature, life-changing experiences…



If Bellingen Shire was a person, who would that person be? What are their personality traits?

Some examples may include:

Happy, relaxed, friendly, connected, fun, wise, strong, Old Man Dreaming (Ngali)…

Example of a Brand Personality:

“Kakadu National Park has a complex personality of great substance. It is neither male nor female yet both. It is old and it is new. It is wise and it is young. It has many aspects to its rich character. It is traditional and contemporary. It is fun yet serious. It has moments of deep contemplation

and quiet relaxation. It is uplifting and inspirational. It is harsh, yet open-hearted and welcoming. It is generous in spirit and commands deep respect.

Kakadu is unique in the true sense of the word.”



This is a description of what Bellingen Shire is and what makes it different from other places. A distillation of all of the above in as few words as possible.

Example of a Brand Essence (Arnhem Land):

“Adventures in Culture”

“the strange, as it were, invisible beauty of Australia, which is undeniably there, but which seems to lurk just beyond the range of our white vision.”

DH Lawrence - Kangaroo



The information and ideas gathered during community workshops and from all feedback and comments received will be used to develop a brief for the Brand  Identity.  This will involve  developing a logo, tag line, a visual palette, and a tone of  voice. The brand identity elements will be available for use by businesses, tourism operators, Council and other organisations. A brand manual will be provided to guide people on how to use the brand. It’s important to note that towns and businesses  can of course retain their own identity, whilst using the Bellingen Shire brand as a “Master Brand”.

The Bellingen Shire Brand will create a recognisable and innovative brand identity that encourages meaningful connections between people and our place. It will provide a cohesive, innovative and strategic tool for Council, the tourism industry, business operators and community groups to expand market opportunities and engage in a new way, fostering a sense of stewardship, civic pride and respect in our community.


If you’d like to get in touch please email us at:

For updates go to: bellingen-shire-branding-project

Please note, we are accepting feedback up until 26th February 2021.