Simply, the “Red Plaid Nation” is a branding term for our North Country Trail community—the people who build, use, maintain and find adventure on the trail, and tell its story. Our story.
In marketing terms, a brand is a promise, communicating the value and desirability of belonging to and identifying with the North Country Trail community. At NCTA our branding tools include the North Star and the “7-State” logos, our tagline “Your Adventure Starts Nearby,” and the trademark “Red Plaid Nation.” We use all of these to support our branding efforts. Ideally, branding defines and creates both a core identity and a differentiation from similar organizations or communities. It ought to be recognizable, memorable, authentic and evoke deep emotional connections. It ought to resonate among priority target audiences. A good brand makes you want to belong to the community it represents, proudly displaying the symbols identifying you as a member.
Nation branding is not a new concept. We’re Americans. We know what it means and what it feels like to be an American. Nation branding has been used in the bioregionalism movement, Salmon Nation being one example. More recently we’ve seen the success of ESPN (no slouch in marketing!)
in nation-branding consumer communities—NFL Nation, B.A.S.S. Nation. Sports teams at all levels have communities of fans connected under the “nation” banner; i.e., Packers Nation, Steelers Nation… You belong, you feel deeply connected, you defend it, and it helps define who you are.
When we consider iconic images connecting people and North Country places where they live, what could be clearer than a swatch of red plaid wool, the timeless standard for outerwear in colder climates for generations? What says the active enjoyment of the “Great North Woods” better than a red plaid wool coat? And what else says North Country more uniquely, to differentiate us from the rest?
We’re not the first or only ones to recognize the iconic potential of red plaid. A swatch of it is Woolrich’s trademark. The standard Kromer Mackinaw cap is red plaid (what says U.P. better??). These companies know their market, and the deep-seated and timeless emotional connections their customers have with red and black buffalo plaid. They’re authentic, the real deal, not a poseur or wannabe in the bunch! Best of all red plaid resonates across generations and is as hip and trendy today as it is standard wear for older generations.
The North Country has its share of “place” icons. North Star, northern lights, loons, wolves, tall pines, lonely windswept shores to name a few. But the North Country Trail is more than just the places it goes through. Unlike many of our other national scenic trails the North Country Trail does more…way more…than follow a mountain range or trace a geo-political boundary. The NCNST connects diverse and varied northern places with the rugged peoples past and present who have managed to survive here and make it their home, as well as the people drawn to the great north woods for fun, adventure, recreation and spiritual reconnection with the land. Our trail celebrates the collective story of those who live, persevere in, enjoy and protect America’s northern heartlands.
And so we are the Red Plaid Nation. We’re authentic. We’re in it for the long haul and durable as the red plaid we wear for both work and play. We are united beneath a banner of red plaid in our love for building a trail to further connect us, a simple hiking trail stitching us together.
We need to grow awareness of the North Country Trail dramatically. Branding helps us evoke an emotional connection and create a desire to belong, to be seen wearing or standing next to a blue blaze, a trail emblem, an NCTA logo. Your adventure starts nearby on the North Country Trail, which is built by and tells the story of our Red Plaid Nation.
It’s a worthy story, and our trail is a source of deep pride among all of us connected with it. We are a community engaged in an effort to give something of immeasurable value back to America. We are the real deal. We are the Red Plaid Nation. Wear it proudly.