Re-thinking the branding experience
The dreaded eight letter word: BRANDING. This word has so many different meanings that it can be hard to get clarity around it. It can be a really great thing or a misuse of funds at the wrong time in a community’s life.
Good branding is inarguably a critical component of a successful community. The challenge has been that for some, it’s assumed to be about deliverables: a logo, a tagline, and gateway signs. This expectation can muddy the conversation when a creative team is charged with positioning a community and downtown in a new way. Sure, a new logo looks fresh and banners bring color and vibrancy to a tired downtown, but their newness soon falls flat when after a year, the revitalization efforts have not followed through and growth remains stagnant.
In order to do this branding thing right, we re-think the branding process to include key collaborative conversations with the right people BEFORE a creative sketch is ever produced.
Discovery and Lots of Questions
To start the process, discovery conversations with anchor businesses, leaders, developers, influencers and residents need to happen. Stakeholders that have history, insights and experience need to be identified and questioned, as well as those involved with economic development – what are current/future challenges, goals, and visions? The common council needs to get engaged. And all conversations need to address stimulating overall economic growth.
From the stakeholders, get honest answers about:
• What does the community stand for today?
• What are its strengths and weaknesses?
• What role do key stakeholders and community groups currently have in bringing the brand to life?
• What does the city have that’s memorable?
• What kinds of TIF or BID opportunities are available?
• What real estate is on the table for discussion?
• What does the downtown offer its residents and visitors?
• What’s worked in the past?
• What influencers are in the city?
• What physical characteristics could play into the promise?
• What is the 1, 5 and 15 year plan/goal?
• What will success look like and how will it be measured?
Only when all the players are engaged and challenged, and information is gathered and analyzed, can the distillation process begin. NOW a clear vision of what the community stands for, and what it needs to communicate to those who work/play/live/visit there, can be identified. Creative assets can be thoughtfully assembled. The final result will be a look, a logo, a sign system, a program, and outdoor décor/art, that all collectively serve to enhance the community and the visitor’s experience. They will have purpose and intent. They will be productive.
It’s only when all the partners and stakeholders work together knowing that everyone’s efforts are towards a common goal and defined direction, that one can truly appreciate a well-designed brand for what it is.
Post written by:
Laura Leszczynski, Brand Strategist/Marketer