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...

Small Town Branding: Different Strokes for Different Folks

Countless consultants are talking about branding and its importance in the economic development of a community. It is important—that’s true. But when the experts go on to talk about the importance of finding your point of distinction and how that must be used as a marketing hook, it stops many small town folks in their tracks. So many small towns don’t have what they consider a marketable distinction. Does that mean they can’t work on a branding initiative? I don’t think so. Small towns need to approach the branding process a bit differently. Many of the steps of developing a brand are excellent exercises for any community. The most important thing to remember is that a brand is not just a logo or tagline. It’s the experience residents and viewers have in every interaction in your community. It’s the purposeful creation of a consistent, positive, experience that delivers what is expected. Spending time on the front end of the branding process is something small towns can do before they have discovered or created a point of distinction. By bringing town staff, elected officials and community members together, volunteers interested in long-term projects can be identified. Cataloging community assets, examining current practices and communications, identifying areas of focus, prioritizing goals and building a network of stakeholders are all activities that will contribute to successful small town branding. These activities create an opportunity to educate the community about branding and its responsibility for the success of the brand. Small towns do not have large advertising budgets to tell the world about their brand. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, to...

When Do We Know it’s Time for a Make-Over?

Taking some time to evaluate your organization’s current logo can have the added benefit of clarifying your message, energizing your staff and re-engaging your supporters. In order to determine whether or not you need to recreate your identity, answer the following questions: 1. Determine the value of what you are currently using. How and where is your logo being used? How long have you been using it? Does it have strong recognition in the community? Is that recognition positive or negative? Have you tested it? 2. Can you bring new life to it with a little tweaking? Is the concept behind your logo strong and does it accurately represent your organization? If so, can it be updated by using new fonts or color? Perhaps a subtle addition (or reduction)? There is huge value in an established brand, if it is positive. 3. If you decide that it needs to be replaced, are there elements of the old logo that should be preserved or incorporated in a new mark? Is there something about your current logo that is fundamental to your brand? Is there a way to bring that into the new mark? 4. In how many ways and places will this new mark need to be updated? This is a big part of deciding whether or not to revamp or recreate your logo. You don’t want former versions of your identity to compete with the new logo. Is it possible for you to change what is in place in a timely and affordable way? 5. Does your budget support this initiative? Creating a new identity system is a significant...

Is Your Logo Doing Its Job? Five Things to Consider

In this economy, competition for loyal supporters is fierce. Non-profits must examine how well they tell their stories. Does the public easily and consistently remember your organization and mission? Are they inspired and energized to support your work? The work at non-profits never lets up. Staff members often wear several hats. A review of branding and marketing strategies is often the last thing on the to-do list. But it’s an important part of assessing your effectiveness. The review process involves far too many factors for one blog post. In this post, we’ll focus on just one small part of the process: Is your logo doing its job? Day-to-day exposure to your organization’s logo can cause it to become wallpaper – almost invisible to the staff responsible for promoting your organization. And then something causes you to look at it with a fresh eye. You might be getting ready to attend a conference or to approach an important potential supporter and you suddenly wonder if this symbol is really serving your organization. Here are five things to consider if this question has ever rolled around in your head: 1. Does your logo accurately reflect your mission and vision? Is there a logical connection between what your organization does and the symbol that represents it? Do you find yourself answering questions from the public about what it means? 2. Does your logo adequately reflect the quality of the work you do? When non-profits are getting started, it’s not uncommon for a volunteer, staff person or family member to offer to design a logo. The realities of a start-up budget might make...

Are You There Yet?

Creating an authentic, engaging and sustainable brand is an important step for a community. Engaging in a brand campaign is a huge decision. The investment of time and money is substantial. A small town’s budget is asked to provide an amazing array of services to residents and business owners. Deciding on spending priorities is an annual exercise for town managers and elected officials and funds are always stretched. So it is very important to recognize whether or not your community is ready to make that investment in developing a formal brand strategy. There are several things that need to be in place for a successful branding initiative. Product—what are your community assets? What is your point of distinction? Do you have a handle on these elements? Do you need to develop your product in order to build your brand? People—who is on board to help move the project forward? Gathering a group of engaged residents and business owners that will commit to a long-term project is critical. Do you have such a group? Are they willing to invest in this project? Do they work well together for the common good? Partnership—community branding requires the collaboration of the civic, business and municipal sectors in a town. Creating a strong brand requires that the entire community believes in the reputation you are trying to build for your town. There needs to be excellent communication, a spirit of cooperation and shared goals between those groups of people. Are you there yet? Planning—building and maintaining a brand is an investment. Have you thought through the impact of creating a new logo, website and...

Small Town Branding

There’s no doubt that creating and sustaining a vibrant brand for your town has long-term benefits. Increased pride and polish can result in increased engagement of business owners and residents. It can help boost sponsorship development. And it can help contribute to a sustainable economy for your community. There’s an important element to consider as you begin a branding initiative in your small town. Engaging your citizens and business owners in the beginning of the process is fundamental. Their input and buy-in will help create brand ambassadors that will do more for your efforts than any expensive media campaign. In general, small town budgets don’t allow for spending on marketing and advertising in the way that larger municipalities and states can. It’s very important that residents and business owners are ambassadors for the town’s brand. Every interaction they have with visitors reinforces and sustains the brand. It’s more effective than anything money can buy. They must be engaged in the process of identifying and creating the brand in order to be engaged and enthused. Take the time to solicit and consider their input and you will create an authentic, sustainable...