San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 9th, 2010
Council approves brand concept on first sight


Former San Marcos Councilmember Pam Couch, chair of the city’s branding task force, asked the council to approve a new branding concept on first look Tuesday night. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

Associate Editor

The message San Marcos soon will voice to the world is, “We’d love your company.”

That’s the brand unanimously accepted by the San Marcos City Council Tuesday night. This summer, the city’s branding task force withdrew an earlier candidate (Pretty. Near. Perfect.) after citizens ridiculed the concept.

The new branding concept will not take effect until at least Sept. 21, when the council could open it up to citizen comment. The new logo had not been presented to the public before it was unveiled to the city council Tuesday night. Councilmember John Thomaides  offered the amendment to delay the brand’s effective date so residents could see the logo and provide comment.

“Frankly I feel kind of pressured to support something that I just saw,” said Thomaides said, explaining why he advocated a two-week comment period.

Thomaides’ suggestion passed with a 6-1 vote. Councilmember Fred Terry voted in opposition.

“It needs to be brought forth, and launch it, and launch it now,” Terry said.

Responded Councilmember Kim Porterfield, “It’s nothing personal. I just don’t see the problem with delaying it to get citizen feedback.”

Councilmember Chris Jones echoed Porterfield and said it was “awkward” to demand that the council vote yes or no on its first viewing, though Jones went on to say, “I love it. I really do like it.”

Though Porterfield and Jones supported the two-week comment period, they also told the branding task force, chaired by former Councilmember Pam Couch, that they would not open discussion on the branding logo at the Sept. 21 council meeting.

Said Couch to the council, “I come to you, and I’m going to have to stick my neck out and say that all of us in this (branding) task force are really expecting to present you a concept tonight, a created concept, and we would very much appreciate for you guys to take a vote on this, which we have been charged to do over the 10 month period. And Mr. Thomaides I do understand you wanting the input from the public. We get that.”

Couch said all the money allocated for developing a brand had been spent and that the new brand was the end product of research and public input from the last logo, which was rejected. Therefore, said Couch, the public already had its say and the council should accept the task force’s recommendation.

Aside from Councilmembers Porterfield, Jones, and Mayor Susan Narvaiz, all three of whom served on the branding task force, nobody had seen the branding logo before Tuesday night, including city staff, councilmembers, and the public. Councilmembers were expected to vote on the product Tuesday night on first viewing.

City spokesperson Melissa Millecam said the brand logo was kept secret because of legal constraints and protection of  trademark.

Thomaides said that if the council wanted a vote Tuesday, night he would be willing to vote for it, as he has learned to “pick my battles.”

Narvaiz quickly responded by saying that the vote wasn’t a battle and that the measure did need everybody’s support.

“We all love San Marcos,” Narvaiz said. “And we want more people to love it. That’s why the tagline (We’d love your company) is so perfect.”

Said Porterfield, “I understand we need to accept this and move on, but I don’t see a problem with taking feedback.”

Rebecca Ramirez, director of the city’s convention and visitor bureau, and Amy Madison, the city’s economic development director, both expressed contentment with the product and supported immediate implementation.

“We presented the very best product for San Marcos,” Couch said. “I love it. I love it more tonight then the last time I saw it.”

The product cost the city $164,900. The money was generated through several years from the city’s hotel occupancy tax revenues.

The new logo features the San Marcos name in a customized font in red, gradient blue and green letters. A shape of the state of Texas is included in the center of the “O.” The “M” is shaped like a waterfall, depicting Rio Vista Falls on the San Marcos River.

The branding task force worked with consultants Hahn Texas and KGB Texas on the project, which included research about San Marcos and cities from across the nation with similar attributes. The work also included an analysis of media and social media coverage, demographic and stakeholder research, an online survey, in-depth interviews and input from key community stakeholders and the public. The task force said the research influenced creative development of the logo and tagline.

The public can provide comment on the brand logo in the city’s website,

The consultants also will provide a launch plan, a marketing and communications plan, and a brand standards guide for print, web, broadcast and signage. The city has allocated $140,000 for its roll out, $90,000 coming from the water fund, and $50,000 from the electric fund.

Serving on the branding task force were Couch, Narvaiz, Porterfield, Jones, Hays County Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos), San Marcos Daily Record Publisher Stan Woody, former economic development council chair Donna Hill, San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Joel Williams, Main Street Program Manager Kelly Franks, and Texas State Associated Student Government President Melani Ferrari. All were appointed in November 2009.


Members of the city’s branding task force pose with the new concept approved by the San Marcos City Council Tuesday night. City of San Marcos photo.

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56 thoughts on “Council approves brand concept on first sight

  1. Certainly an improvement over the last ideas that were presented! My only critisizm is that we spent well over $100k to get this? I can get logo design software for around $40. There’s certainly more appropriate areas to spend that kind of money. Has anyone noticed the condition of Playscape Park lately?

  2. How nice of Council to “leave open the possibility of public feedback” on this important item. Throw a crumb to the masses, why dontcha……

  3. that is the ugliest piece of convoluted-crap design I have ever seen. Three colors? Why? And that M has no purpose, and only makes first glance reading awkward. And ‘We want your company’ sounds more like a ploy for business’ than anything. We tossed 100,000 bucks to some amateurs apparently. Is the design firm local?

  4. The m is a waterfall/river. You’re never going to please everyone. There’s no money for another go round (and no need in my opinion) so you might as well find something about it that you like. Stamp it on some letterhead and let’s move on.

  5. “The product cost the city $164,900” maybe for $200,000 we can get a company that owns a copy of Photoshop, Lighwave, Fireworks, or Corel. This took what 10 minutes in MS Word? “The city has allocated $140,000 for its roll out, $90,000 coming from the water fund, and $50,000 from the electric fund.” Another “prime” example of the disparity between the halves and have-nots. CLEARLY our elected officials are NOT struggling to pay their electric utility bills. And, as a multimedia designer myself, must completely agree that “ugliest …convoluted” work I have seen yet. What happened to “San Marcos A Texas Natural” boondoggle?

  6. I see the reasoning behind the “M” but also think it makes for a difficult read. The saying is good, “We’d love your company” but I think the one Lisa mentioned “San Marcos, A Texas Natural” says it all! What happened to that one?….can we get our money back? What is the venue to get out this new logo for public comments?….. only seen it here on this website. Thanks, John for pushing to give time for citizen comments!

  7. What decade is this? This looks very elementary with those primary colors. This is not something the city can put on business cards, letterhead, etc. Wasn’t that part of the intent so they City didn’t have to use the seal on everything? I get this is supposed to be a city brand, but I don’t think it can be used by actual city services. This appeals to tourism only.

    I don’t think it will get used. Wasn’t the Police Department waiting to redesign their badges, patches, cars, etc. to incorporate this? I doubt they will use it. I don’t think having “We’d love your company” on the side of a police car the best message for the City.

  8. The allusion to “company” in the slogan is appropriate, but perhaps not strong enough of a statement to show how we really run this town. Maybe instead of “We’d love your company” the slogan should be “We’ll bend over and grab our ankles if you’ll develop here”. It’s more accurate.

  9. I like the tagline, though it does sound more like a business development pitch than an overall slogan for the city. Still, it works. The logo is fine, though it doesn’t bowl me over. I expect it will grow on me.

    Of course, I still like “Pretty. Near. Perfect.” I know it was the object of ridicule on these boards, but that was not a bad slogan.

    The most delicious part about all this is Fred Terry’s opposition to allowing taxpayers to weigh in. You know you’re an outlier (and not in a good way) when everyone but you votes for a public comment period. Fred’s little soundbite rivals Pam Couch’s speech about how citizens shouldn’t be allowed to comment because they already commented on an earlier, entirely different proposal.

    Ay carumba.

  10. What Garland said. I still feel like a $150k brand should be much more than a logo and tag line. I’m getting the sense that this is not the case here.

  11. Tarl… Not sure how this phone decided that should be “Garland,” as opposed to, oh, I don’t know, “Carl?”


  12. The city’s website has now provided a link with an email address ( for residents to provide city officials with comments on the new brand logo.

  13. First impression–“company” in terms of a business enterprise. Second, the contraction “We’d.” Is that We would, We should or We could? From the colors, I suspect the latter. Red–we are hot at attract your company, changing to Blue as we cool to the idea unless your company goes Green or will drop a lot of green cash here. Third, close your eyes, view the slogan phonetically and change some inflection–“Weed, Love your company.”

  14. OK, time to weigh in here…

    We’d = We would … seems like a statement about the future not the present. I do not like contractions and I do not like basing our brand on a hope for the future, but that is just me. Pretty.Near.Perfect. was at least in the present tense!

    “The city has allocated $140,000 for its roll out, $90,000 coming from the water fund, and $50,000 from the electric fund.” WOW! How do the folks who pay city water and electric feel about that? I am a San Marcos tax payer but not a customer of SM electric nor water – I guess I am getting a great deal here!

    ““It needs to be brought forth, and launch it, and launch it now,” Terry said.” …without citizen comment period. Mr. Terry has a lot to learn about building consensus – but he does not know that because he did not have to campaign and run for office. Perhaps Mr. Terry should stop sending email and start talking to his constituents …

    Finally, why are we abandoning “San Marcos: A Texas Natural” ? Perhaps Newstreamz (SMLN) could do a bit of investigative reporting on that question.

  15. I say Start all over again, make it a competition were local residents can suggest a “home made” logo that reflects what our city is all about, and the best thing, it will not cost us a dime, who knows, someone out there might come up with a ” “Pretty. Near. Perfect.” logo for San Marcos.

  16. The money already spent, and being spent, on the consultants (as with the entire herd of ’em we have hired lately) for the new “SaMMarcos” tag IS being spent here, and turning over in the community over 5 times, right? Right, CoC? Right, carefully-selected panel of great minds?

    I know our Leaders would not just piss off money to stay competitive with Kyle and Buda in the “most like Austin” race?

  17. What ever happened to all those Mass Media and Advertising and Marketing and PR gurus “on the Hill”? Too expensive? Not smart enough? Gone out of business? Why do we NEVER use local resources and local community expertise in attacking our monumental problems such as how to make ourselves stand out, artificially?

  18. It is a travesty that our city leaders are spending over $300K for this logo and tag line ($164,900 to get to this point, plus $140,000 to roll it out) when our proposed budget has us spending beyond our means (drawing down on general funds) and we’re facing utility rate increases. What’s next, another developer handout?

  19. The city better get busy raising utility rates …looks like our town alsoneeds to stock up on those cloth
    WONDER!!! WORLD and KEEP SAN MARCOS CLEAN!!! street banners that hang every 10 feet. And where will they find any empty poles to hang the new SANMARCOS WE’D LOVE YOUR COMPANY banner ?
    It’s beginning to feel like Disneyland,

  20. The main problem with this WHOLE process is that Pam Couch has been at the helm. Why have a former Council Member (a Susan puppet) be the chair person for this? Well, we all know that answer. This is the reason people in this town are apathetic. The same “select few” are the ones involved in the process. Now I am not advocating for design by committee but that is what happened anyway. Why did we not see some business leaders – ones with MARKETING experience – as members of this task force? I have to agree, it is a hard read at first glance. It looks like Sam Narcos. Hey! There we go NARCOS and WEED love your company. The person who came up with this must be a serious drug user and wanted to pay homage to his/her favorite past time! Odd to hear from Fred Terry, he is just a piece of furniture on the dais most of the time. This is NOT a brand. It’s a set of words then more words. How is this going to look shrunk down on a business card? Or in black in white when someone copies it or in magazines/ads at times when only allow black and white are the colors? WHAT A JOKE! The WHOLE thing is a joke. Why not spend $140,000 promoting the Embassy Suites Conference Center, that would have a better residual effect!

  21. As a Texas State alum with a degree in Communication Design, I’ve a biased opinion and this definitely stirs me in several directions. Upon seeing it for the first time, I was surprised and somewhat pleased by how progressive a mark it is especially for a municipality. Whether the city’s own progress matches is another subject.

    I do, however, have mixed feelings about the tagline as well as well for many of the previously stated reasons.

    As for the cost, the price tag irks me but so do sentiments that assume that branding & design should be extremely cheap. We are only seeing the end result – the amount of research, planning, and numerous ideas that were contributed take a lot of time and a lot of hard work. Some of the cheap alternatives suggested can devalue the industry when put into practice – we have to make a living too and don’t just create for fun!

    @billygmoore – I do concur with you about using local resources and talent. TSU’s Communication Design department is nationally recognized and consistently pumps out award winning work – perhaps some alum or professors would have been another alternative to branding instead of out of town consultants.

    @Steve Harvey – your police car comment is priceless!

  22. I just wonder who was ever influenced to make ANY type of decision about a city based on some brand or slogan. The slogans I see are usually watered down, meaningless pap and pablum; victims of incessant committee rewrites and concessions. Are you seriously going to choose to live, go to school or establish a business here based on or in spite of some slogan you love or hate? Do we need a bumper sticker so we can find each other when we’re in Dallas? This whole exercise was a huge waste of time and money. We should just take our .jpg move on.

  23. Looks like the police have plenty of company each night hauling the combatants away from downtown at 2am. “Downtown San Marcos come on vacation leave on probation”.

  24. Whoever is coming up with this stuff obviously has a low opinion of San Marcos. “Pretty. Near. Perfect.” ? “We’d love your company?” Seriously? I love multiple meanings too but come on. This isn’t clever, it’s embarrassing. Why don’t we just say, “Low. Self. Esteem.” or “Come share our misery.” or “We’ll fund your company.”
    We don’t need our town to be represented by a crayola box logo. Why don’t we have an open contest? That would make it a community effort. It is for the community isn’t it?

    Bless you John Thomaides. You get it.

  25. Ya’ll are cracking me up. Very funny and all true.

    I think the tag line is fine, not good, but fine.
    But there is nothing wrong with the old one- A Texas Natural.
    “Natural” just doesn’t jive with Susan’s philosophy for growth and development, as we have learned the hard way.
    But the logo sucks.

    The logo has too many things going on… Even with the color cues, one wants to read ‘sam arcos’ instead of San Marcos. The ‘n’ is situated too close to the ‘m’. The top slope of the ‘m’ leans away from the slope of the ‘a’ in the word it should be most connected to; Marcos. When the logo is reproduced in black &white, the color cues will be lost, making it even more illegible.

    If the ‘m’ is to allude to a waterfall, make it a waterfall! As is, the legs of the ‘m’ are so spread apart it loses continuity as a waterfall design (even with the color cues).

    The font consistency is also at issue here. Both ‘s’s, the ‘c’ and the ‘o’ are of a different font type than the other letters (with the exception of the ‘m’). These letters are perceptibly thinner with different end styles.

    Treating the name “San Marcos” in the diminutive (mixed case letters that are the same size) is not a good idea. Branding in this way is evocative of the 1980’s and 1990’s (e.g. macy’s, abercrombie). This may be popular now, especially given the lower case protocol for the .com’s, but this is not that. My dad would say it’s important to consider how this branding will fare, not just now, but, twenty years from now.
    Lastly, the Texas graphic in the middle of the ‘o’ seems to be an after thought. Stupid.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    But for this kind of money, these guys should be on staff at City Hall and licking envelopes.

    As previously suggested, we could have had a logo contest, voted on the coolest one and gotten a better product.
    I can’t wait for November.

  26. We must concede. “San Marcos–A Texas Natural” is seriously flawed, in that it was done on the cheap to begin with, with the assent of the statewide program; and I’m not sure it is true anymore, thanks to a lively and ambitious group of boosters we have allowed to speak for and direct us into roadside suburbia.

    I want the concession for treasure hunting in the San Marcos River bed. I’ve come to think I will live long enough.

  27. Couch: “I love it more tonight then the last time I saw it.”

    Michael Scott: “That’s what she said.”

  28. How pedestrian can you get? We’d love your company. Really? Can you be a little more subtle? The tag screams Low Self-Esteem! If I were a company hunting for a business site, this would make me run away from San Marcos, not be attracted to it. Confidence breeds confidence. If you think of yourself (or company) as a winner, you want to be around other winners. This Logo does not say we’re number one; It says meekly, “we sure would love…well…like to be um-ya-know well liked by you if ya wanna come here and be our friend that would good I guess.”

    Let the Chamber of Commerce pay for a promotion to attract businesses, not tax dollars. We already have a dept. of the city to promote new business. If this must be a CoC Logo, give us a logo that says we breed confident winning companies.

    Business friendly Tag lines: “A river of possibilities” or “Where ideas flow” or “We invite you to live” or “What you’ve been looking for.”

    That was maybe three minutes of work, can I have $5,000 now?

  29. Steve Blank….. I really like “A river of possibilities”,
    Tell you the truth, non of those people on that “branding task force” knows much of anything about branding, I hope some of them reads SM local news and see how many people cares about our city, at least, as much as they do, they also need to understand when you ask local citizens to participate in decision making, the city is better off than when you have the very FEW who makes those decisions.

  30. I love the idea of inviting Texas State advertising students to compete for a cash prize in developing a logo and tagline. Let them form mini creative teams (artist + writer) and develop and pitch ideas. What couple of ambitious college students wouldn’t squeeze their brains to come up with winning ideas for, say, $10K each?

    But everyone wins in this scenario, because even those whose ideas aren’t chosen have something to add to their portfolios.

    I suppose that would have been a nice idea to bring up $164,900 ago. Sorry.

    Maybe the tagline should play to the anti-California sentiment overtaking Austin:
    “San Marcos: Just Like Austin–Before California Moved In.”

  31. “San Marcos: Just Like Austin–Before California Moved In.”

    Funny. When they played USC for the title, all I could think was UT/USC, what exactly is the difference?

    “Austin: the un-Texas”

  32. This design is truly awful. I’m a local artist and art alum of Texas State University, and I shudder to think that over $150,000 was spent on creating this! It is amateurish and worse than student work. It’s an embarrassment. The contract should have been given to a local design company, such as 1836 Ink, who could have come up with something stunning, unique and readable.

    Again, what an embarrassment. It’s enough to change my vote. We live in the most beautiful spot in Texas and have THIS as our brand concept? I’m shocked and ashamed. There are so many artists and designers here. I’m taking note of who opposed/was hesitant to approve this and THEY will be the council members who get my vote this time around.

  33. It is unfortunate that the university resources do not come up as one of our first considerations in general. Greater university involvement = greater sense of “belonging” for students = better town and gown relations. Not to mention, we might get better results on any number of projects.

  34. Steve Blank brings up a very interesting point. Since when is the MAIN function of my tax dollars and the principal duty of City Government to hustle up more growth and more “bidness?” Once upon a time, streets, fire, police, utilities, land use, environmental (fill in the blanks, depending on who you are), and services back to the taxpayer were assumed to lead the way. Promoting the economy has A place, certainly, and cities achieve that by BEING the kind of place that fosters outside interest–not by BUYING outside interest (which can allso become the driver for the true basic functions, if pursued relentlessly).

    We MUST do certain things BECAUSE OF growth demand, at the same time as we spend all our time and resources CREATING that demand? Anybody looked lately at how much money is committed in the City budget to multiple and varied contracts with the Chamber of Commerce and its related enterprises? How much funds things like our beloved “sports tourism destination” status? (WHAT!!)

    Have I actually fallen Behind the Looking Glass? Why does the new, expensive logo and “brand” (great fad–lots of money for ad companies and image consultants, who might otherwise be having a slow year) continue to remind me of the common image we all carry in our heads of the red light district in Amsterdam? Or Mae West: “Why don’t you come up and see me some time, Big Boy?” Oh, well, company is company, if the money is right.

    Finally, I’d like a show of hands: All who think a serious investor/entrepreneur would suddenly be stricken by the urge to invest here because we have a clever “tag line,” no matter what kind of community we really ARE. Can these people be serious? Is this the only way to attract interest away from all the other “branders” swarming around us? (Personally, I might come here just to check out whether SaMMarcos was really THAT easy.)

  35. Oh, well. Seems as if, when you appoint a team of experienced local marketing geniuses to come up with something, they WILL come up with SOMETHING. But I do understand that the $165K involved a lot of complicated research. Hope it can also be used for something else, not just this.

  36. I think the tag line is ok (if slightly desperate as previously pointed out), but that logo is an absolute disaster. Are you kidding me?! ! !

    The rivery M, the texas state in the O, 4 colors (I count the gradient as 2), the psuedo techy font on “san marcos” contrasting with the font below it. should we add a couple trains? we have trains! they are commerce”y” right? Maybe they could be crashing into each other! and a school too! people will think we are smart!

    Might as well just put san marcos in comic sans with rainbow coloration and a unicorn.

  37. I think we should appoint a task force to investigate this so called “branding task force”. When economic times are bad, I would think you could get a better deal on a service like this. It’s astonishing to think that this price of $164,900 was even published and then made to seem like it’s a deal because it came from the city’s hotel occupancy tax revenues. The logo should read “San Marcos…visit our one-of-a-kind city council circus” or “We’d love your company…to bamboozle us”. We should all aspire to own a company that works directly with the city of San Marcos and be overpaid for our products or services. When the ACC proposition passes, ask them how simple it was to cheat people out of tax dollars if they can hear you over their celebration. This is one big joke, the city council and the other decision makers of this once great city.

  38. I think I’ll just copy and paste this entire string into a message to that council address for public comments. It is just too good to waste. I’m also of the opinion that the tag line is full of desperation, and is just about attracting companies. And the state of Texas in the O is so tiny it will look like a gnat stuck on a business card when printed smaller. So many colors is expensive to print, but that may not be an issue for them. I’d sure rather see $90,000 in our water fund put to better use as incentives to encourage water conservation, and ditto for the part that came from the electric fund. After all those interviews of stakeholders, it all comes down to just advertising for companies to come here. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that I wasted my time attending those interviews.

  39. Haha! Dianne, I thought about doing the same thing! Here’s a copy of what I sent, for what it’s worth:

    Dear Council Members,

    I think the new brand is laughable. It manages to look both childish and whorish all at once. From what I understand, this is our last chance to get something out of the company that we paid $164,000, and to which we will pay another $140,000 to have this brand rolled out. I’m not sure if that understanding is correct, but if it is, I think the only decent thing to do at is point would be to shoot this thing dead where it stands and cut our losses. I’d rather be out $164,000 with nothing to show for it, than out $304,000 with a pathetic embarrasment stamped all over town.

    I don’t know what to say for those on the Branding Committee and on City Council who approve of this embarrasment, except that they must have been over-inundated with prospective brands and lost their capacity for rational judgement. I would advise that Council members intentionally not look at this brand again during the two week comment period in order to re-set their sensory/perception abilities. Or, in case any of you hasn’t looked at the city website since the brand has been plastered onto it, I suggest that you open it up, and see if you don’t feel immediately offended.

    I further suggest that the brand be immediately removed from the city website and replaced by a link that people can click if they want to view the brand. If families with young children don’t have to listen to foul and abusive language on the radio, then I shouldn’t be assaulted with this visual abomination when I open my city’s home page.

    Thanks for being concerned with my opinion.

    Kelly Lochman

  40. wow. The company who designed this just messed up their portfolio. Way to go committee members.

    So, what made y’all contract out with the agency that designed this. Clearly its not because their bid came in the least expensive. Possibly because their CEO and other employees are Texas State Alumni? That cant be right, since the university has a a design program with award winning faculty and students right in your back yard. I think the community deserves an explanation and most importantly, a refund. It is disgusting that you could use taxpayer money in such a frivolous way. Technically, tax payers paid for this new brand identity so…..does this mean they can sue for not getting their moneys worth???

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  42. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! To all those who have taken time out of their day to share their opinions, you have answered my prayers. I have been tasked with “branding” our great little city of Logan, Utah. You have all helped me make the right decision; to use our local university and community in this process. By the way, I was concerning a budget of about $1000 (money that has come from downtown businesses), and I was concerned about wasting their money. Now I’ll give this money to someone, a student, or citizen in Logan as a small token of appreciation…and we’ll all have some fun! By the way, I’m sorry you’re out $164K.

  43. Being aghast to one another has no effect whatever–not even the warm feeling of wetting a pair of dark pants. Since the Council has its claques (hired or invited group of fans and earnest seekers) present for every vote, normally led by co-conspirator Couch, it might be useful for some folks who feel differently to bother going and sayng so. Being ignored is the usual, but it is harder when there are numbers of honest citizens.

  44. The challenge is there are so many things I want to talk about in the 3 minute period. Last Tuesday, there were literally 10 things on my mind of concern, so I narrowed it down to just 4 topics, which is still a very brief blast when contained to the 3 minutes per citizen.

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