A new tagline for the city to replace the highly criticized slogan “Country with attitude” is close to being revealed.

After public outcry over the previously approved tagline, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) and Terra Firma Digital Arts — the organizations working with the city to develop its new brand — took feedback from the public and came up with three new tagline options.

The organizations released a survey listing the options “Country inspired,” “Country with spirit” and “Proud to be country” for members of the public to rank in order of preference. From those options, there are two clear front-runners and one consensus number two pick, community development specialist Simone Carlysle-Smith said.

In all, 125 people took the survey, 16 of whom submitted paper copies.

Carlysle-Smith said the survey results showed support for all three options.

“And when we asked the question ‘None of the above,’ the majority of people did support the three options,” Carlysle-Smith said.

She said they are using the survey results as a gauge for which direction to take, and not necessarily looking at which tagline got the most votes because there was no way to stop people from voting multiple times.

Two of the three alternate taglines are ideas that came from the branding open house back in March, she said.

She also said the tagline “Country inspired” was ranked highly as second choice.

“Interestingly, that one was ranked quite high for second choice, but the other two were ranked higher for first choice, so we know we can move in a certain direction,” Carlysle-Smith said.

Two more open houses on the branding were held May 12 and 13, which fewer than 50 people attended between the two days.

At the open houses, Carlysle-Smith revealed highway signage concepts for the three teepee signs around Merritt.

Each concept had the word “WHOA!” with a sentence underneath relating to the large image.

One showed a man jumping into a lake with the sentence “turn here for cannonballs.”

Another concept showed the Coldwater Hotel with the sentence “WHOA! Turn here for heritage” while another was a picture of people in cowboy hats with their horses beneath the sentence “WHOA! Keep going for real country.”

“The first idea is ‘whoa’ because we want people to slow down. We want to play on that country theme, but not have it all be western,” Carlysle-Smith said, noting the aim is to focus on experiences.

At the open house May 13, Carlysle-Smith said authentic experiences are important for the branding of small communities.

She said many people drive past Merritt on a daily basis and don’t regard the town as a destination.

“We want to increase visitation based on destination experiences. Focus on the experience, the non-tangible, the emotional response you have when you have a good experience in a community as a visitor, as opposed to being regarded as a service centre,” she said.

With the open houses done, the next step will be to do a legal trademark search to determine the availability of the taglines, Carlysle-Smith told the Herald. After that, the city will need to register its chosen trademark, which can take two to six months.

Carlysle-Smith said the top priority now is the city’s tourism website.

She said TOTA is encouraging the city to invest in the tourism website for marketing this year as there is funding available to help the city get the site up and running.

TOTA is making changes to the website plan in response to open house feedback.

“What we’ve done is a design for the website. We’ve mapped out the site map, we got some feedback from the open house, so we do have to expand it because we heard that people want the arts and things like that, so we’ll make sure that all gets in,” Carlysle-Smith said of the website.

Carlysle-Smith is slated to present a tourism plan progress report to council on May 27.

As for the brand logo, it will remain the familiar wordmark, but it will have the new tagline in place of “Country with attitude.”