Small Town Branding: First Steps and Benefits

Increased conversation about branding and its role in economic development has caused many small towns to consider such a project. As they learn more about the process, municipal staff and elected officials are often dismayed by the time involved and the cost of such a project. Another impediment is the idea that the brand is built around a community’s point of distinction.

It is wonderful to have an attraction or business in your community that is so remarkable that a compelling brand can be built upon it. Case studies reveal clever graphics and creative tag lines developed from these unique qualities that help promote the community and attract visitors and business. The attraction or business helps ensure that a sustainable brand strategy can be developed and implemented.

Folks from small towns view these case studies from larger cities with deep pockets or vacation destinations with amazing vistas or thrilling activities and can’t find a way forward for their own communities.

In a small community, it is important to do a thorough asset inventory of your town—know your product. Take an objective look at your community—what does the website(s) look like? How about signage at critical gateways and within the towns? Do communications issued by the organization or municipality appear consistent in look and tone? Do various departments within the organization use the same colors and fonts? Do offices and buildings support the identity?

Creating a professional identity that holds a place for the community while it organizes and identifies the path forward is possible and important. Making sure there is consistency across municipal departments, the governing body and with community partners accomplishes several things.

  1. When a community has a polished presence and appears well organized and professional, it lets both residents and the outside world know it’s open for business.
  1. Residents, seeing a consistent image at parks and recreation events or at town hall or in the planning department, are made aware of the services (and benefits) provided by town staff and elected officials. They can see their tax dollars at work.
  1. A consistent, polished image helps create a greater sense of pride in elected officials, municipal employees and residents. A strong, professional identity (just like a great new haircut) helps make a positive impression.

In general, it’s a wise idea to work with a professional to develop an identity that can be used by the community. In a future post, I’ll highlight some of the reasons to consider working with an experienced consultant.