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Canadian, American competitors latch on to Metro Vancouver port's “Pacific Gateway” brand

Proposed rival terminal at Cherry Point, Washington, branded as “Gateway Pacific” by Jenny Wagler
“Gateway” councils and projects in Canada and beyond are competing with Port Metro Vancouver's branding as “Canada's Pacific Gateway”

Port Metro Vancouver(PMV), which brands itself as "Canada's Pacific Gateway," is facing brand identity confusion from a growing number of "gateway" programs and "gateway" councils across Canada and south of the border.

"A lot of folks are trying to copy us and they've attached the 'gateway' brand – and you see in other regions of the country, people want to set up 'gateway' councils," said Duncan Wilson, PMV's vice-president of corporate social responsibility.

"While it's very flattering, there aren't dozens of gateways in Canada."

Wilson said that PMV adopted its gateway tagline as part of the 2006 Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative (APGCI) – an initiative focused on Asia-Pacific trade, involving upper tiers of government, PMV, the Port of Prince Rupert and other partners.

Wilson said one source of local confusion is the province's Gateway Program: the Lower Mainland infrastructure program that includes twinning the Port Mann bridge – a program that actually pre-dates the APGCI by three years.

Wilson noted, however, that this confusion isn't too concerning to PMV because of the complementary nature of the programs.

The port's rivals to the south, however, are also jumping on the "gateway" bandwagon. A proposed port at Cherry Point in Washington state, for example, has branded itself the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

Will PMV's customers in Asia get misled by the similar branding?

"I'm not too concerned," said Wilson. "In Asia what's important is they want to know in this country that we're working together in a collaborative fashion, so they like the fact that there's this organized program here."

Wilson added that the port's full tagline, Canada's Pacific Gateway, is safe from U.S. imitation.

"They're not going to be using that south of the border."

Wilson said the port doesn't feel it needs to overhaul its brand, and added that it expects to see further imitation down the line.

"I think a lot of people are going to use it because it conveys a lot of meaning that's been established through successful projects like what we've done," he said.

Branding consultant Karley Cunningham, owner of Big Bold Brand, said when an organization sees its brand taken up by copycats, it has a clear choice to make: resistance or collaboration.

She assessed that PMV and other APGCI organizations have an opportunity to partner with other "gateway" branded organizations in Canada to build extra momentum around the brand. She said when it comes to business rivals, PMV might want to look at trademarking or registering to protect its brand.

Faced with copycats, should an organization chuck its brand and start afresh?

Cunningham thinks not.

"Do you want to shy away from something that's grabbed momentum?" •