The #WeAreYQQ brand: From the Comox Valley and proud of it!

Where is here? Here is the Comox Valley. Who is here? Talent.

On July 20-22, 2016 the Comox Valley Art Gallery hosted the Where is Here? symposium. The symposium focussed on the issue of defining where we are, and who “we” are in this place. CVAG’s Sharon Karsten says this is an important part of community economic development. I agree. That’s why branding our emerging talent economy is so important: because our individual talents (in business, the arts, and more) are the building blocks for the emerging economy that will take us beyond our current economic challenges.

Branding talent economies

How do we brand talent economies? Here’s an example from Vancouver. WeAreYVR was launched several years ago to brand and map Vancouver’s emerging tech talent sector. I like the WeAreYVR example. It’s strong. It provokes curiosity. It’s inclusive. It’s geo-locatable, and distinct.

Following suit, I created #WeAreYQQ to brand our Comox Valley talent economy. #WeAreYQQ  tells the world, “From the Comox Valley and proud of it!” It’s a tool, generated to serve our talent economy. Here’s how it works.

Provocative / clickable

Love them or hate them, hashtags are provocative. They make people stop and think. Using a hashtag also means the brand is searchable (clickable) on most social networks, making it easy to see who’s doing what. #WeAreYQQ also raises questions like: Who is “we?” What is “YQQ?”


As a search term, #WeAreYQQ can’t belong to any one person, business, or agency. It belongs to everyone who uses it. The “we” of #WeAreYQQ is anyone who wants to use the brand to attach to their work – or to the work of people and organizations who are doing good stuff in our region. I routinely tag people doing good stuff with the phrase “#WeAreYQQ ★.” It’s my way of saying “heroes of the Comox Valley” – but in a concise, branded, and collaborative way that works well on social media.

Geo-locatable and distinct

#WeAreYQQ uses the IATA code for Comox Airport (YQQ). IATA codes are often used by businesses and organizations in other locales because they’re short, distinct markers that cannot be confused with other locales. (For example, the “CV” brand is great for locals. For the rest of the world, the people we’re branding for, it most often means “curriculum vitae” – or more close to home, Cowichan Valley.) IATA codes only point to distinct locales. Just as WeAreYVR = Vancouver and WeAreYEG = Edmonton, WeAreYQQ = Comox Valley.

Is it working?

Search via Google, Twitter, Facebook – and especially Instagram. #WeAreYQQ is being used by all manner of creatives and entrepreneurs – painters, musicians, fish charter operators, bakeries, blacksmiths, and more. They’re using #WeAreYQQ to brand what they’re doing in and beyond the Comox Valley. By using it, they’re inviting others to click through to discover a community of creatives and entrepreneurs in the Comox Valley.

Screenshot 2016-07-24 09.54.36

Collaboration and competition

Generating a talent economy is about collaboration. It’s also about competition. We compete with other regions endowed with natural and cultural amenities, relatively “affordable” housing, etc. Having a brand helps differentiate us. It also shows that we’re serious about supporting our talent economy.

How we provide support is by growing and sustaining trust and grassroots collaboration. This is already part of the culture of some organizations and businesses in the Comox Valley. Elevate the Arts Festival is one of my favourite examples. Having an inclusive brand like #WeAreYQQ makes collaboration easier. Here’s what I mean:

Whenever anyone uses the #WeAreYQQ tag they are identifying with and amplifying our talent economy. By following, retweeting, commenting on, and reposting #WeAreYQQ stories – in any media – people are extending the impact of the brand, and the reach or visibility of our Comox Valley talent economy. When we support businesses, organizations, and artists that are self-identifying with our Comox Valley talent economy, we are directly helping to grow the local talent economy.

Growing our talent economy

Macro level support from agencies and institutions is a positive when it comes to growing a talent economy, and it’s great to see movement after the pot got stirred a couple of summers back. Our small tech talent pool now is on the radar. But our talent pool is much larger than our tech sector, and the evidence of decades of community economic development, and more recent examples of “startup communities,” is that what’s most important is an abundance of diverse grassroots, micro-level activities – across all sectors. For the Comox Valley, that means we need to grow our capacity to support entrepreneurs in the arts and in food, big time.

At LIFT Comox Valley (formerly the #WeAreYQQ Project) we launched the #WeAreYQQ brand as a tool for grassroots creatives and entrepreneurs to use. It’s your brand, not ours. You are the people creating the home-grown economy reflecting the values and aspirations of the people who live here. By using the brand you’re making this place – this “here” – visible as an emerging talent-driven economy. Let us know how we can help. That’s what LIFT Comox Valley is all about: Leading, Inspiring, and Fuelling Talent to grow a new economy in the Comox Valley.

Let’s make this shift happen!

for LIFT Comox Valley
@WeAreYQQ on Twitter