New branding seeks to boost North Bay's craft manufacturers

SANTA ROSA -- A new branding initiative for producers of craft goods and foods in the North Bay is among the latest efforts to leverage the region's growing rapport with consumers, providing distinct branding for companies creating products in the six counties of Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano, Mendocino and Lake.

Called "North Bay Made," the branding, developed under Santa Rosa's Share Exchange, features county-specific logos with a common visual motif meant to evoke a broader North Bay regional brand.

It is among the latest co-branding efforts born in Sonoma County, following the recently launched "Sonoma County" brand developed under the Sonoma County Vintners and the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau and the widely adopted "Go Local" branding offered by the Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative.

Together, the efforts point to the desire by a wide variety of companies and industries to leverage a region-based marketing message, along with the sway that those initiatives have in both capturing the interest of current residents and attracting the dollars of outside buyers for locally produced goods and services.

"Part of the reason we can do this here is because we have a strong history of local production," said Kelley Rajala, founder of the Share Exchange and its associated retail operation, the Made Local marketplace. "If you can get locally grown produce at your local merchant, why would you go elsewhere?"

The branding has begun to roll out in the Made Local Marketplace after a soft launch this month. The downtown Santa Rosa shop operates on a consignment structure while stocking craft goods and foods from more than 300 small-scale producers in Sonoma County, and is connected to the adjacent co-working and office space of the Share Exchange.

As adoption rates grow, Ms. Rajala said that she expects the revenue from yearly licensing agreements to help support programs that provide a co-benefit to the participants. It is an approach that draws some inspiration from the nonprofit SF Made group in San Francisco, which uses revenue to support shared advertising for its members, events, training, job posting and other programs.

"Small business doesn't have the marketing dollars of Target, per se. But they can pool their resources for a stronger voice," she said.

The shared logos would also serve as a marker for consumers, identifying the sourcing of products that are distributed throughout the six-county area, she said. While envisioned as an asset for smaller-scale producers, the brand is also available to companies with annual revenue exceeding $2 million.

A founding member of the Go Local Cooperative, Ms. Rajala left the organization to launch the Share Exchange in 2010.  The nonprofit increased its footprint significantly in October 2012, now allocating the entirety of its former 1,000-square-foot space to retail operations while moving the co-working operations to an adjacent 2,000-square foot office. The co-working space, with three private offices and around 10 desk spaces for rent, quickly reached capacity, inspiring talk of another expansion in the future, she said.

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