Do your communities know who you are? We are the most powerful influencers and advocates for each of our communities, but not many of us know who our city is in the eyes of our businesses and citizens. Your brand narrative can have a major impact on who chooses to visit, buy products, or most importantly call your community home. If you haven’t figured it out, you must then tell the world.
Lincoln was experiencing a renaissance; a period of unprecedented growth and national recognition. We survived the recession and had one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates. We knew it was time take advantage of some serious momentum. We knew a unified brand would build pride and awareness.
Do you love your city like I do? Are you unable to think of anywhere else in the world you would rather be? It’s time to start spreading the word.
What do people love about your community? Why aren’t they shouting it from the rooftops? Hire someone you trust to do some serious research and find out.
Hold a couple of community listening sessions to take the temperature of your target audience. Likely you want to reach millennials and Young professionals as well as current residents. Find out what they love and capitalize on their passion. What’s holding them back from sharing their love with the world? Maybe that midwestern humble pride? Tell them it’s “ok” to show off, to tell the world how much they love their city. In fact, ask them to! Do the research it takes up front to get things started by hiring a company to do an environmental scan of community perceptions. Don’t forget to measure your results once you deploy your marketing strategy.
Partner with a local marketing firm who knows youth marketing
Don’t try this at home. While chamber’s know how to advocate and market with the best of them, it is important to have third party validation and assistance. In each of your communities, you have amazing companies that represent many impressive national brands. Partner with them to carry out the plan, connect them to people and carry the torch (it’s what we do best). While your local agency may have never branded a city, it works on the same principals. Trust them to love your city, too. They are the experts in the psyche of an entire generation – young professionals and millenials who want to take over the world and our organizations.
Don’t do what everyone else is doing
We are all fighting a talent war for next generation workers who will propel our companies and the economy to innovative and successful new places. We are all working to convince our best and most talented minds to stay in our cities, love them, invest in them and stay for good! We want them to take ownership in our cities future. If we want them to hear us, we can’t market to them in traditional ways. Use new media to your advantage and make a menu of crazy things to let your community and investors drive the direction of your efforts. Start a kickstarter, put up some crazy signs that make people say “I love that we do that here” or break a Guinness World Record with a tower of Lincoln Logs, or two. Time is short, build something that matters. Make sure your marketing activities build brand awareness and pride and create a culture of surprise and delight.
What is the secret sauce? What does success look like?
You will have to decide what it looks like for you, listen to local’s feedback. I would argue the answer is right under your nose. Your target audience wants nothing more than to be asked to be involved in something big, something bigger than themselves. Meaning, they want to make their mark and be part of something that will live beyond them and impact their communities forever. Ask everyone you know to tell their story and share their love of place. Ask them to become co-creators of something powerful and when these powerful stories unite; you have a wildfire. Remember, you can get the ball rolling but the brand is not yours to own, the brand belongs to each and every person. You are merely stewards to keep the flame alive. When everyone wants to include the brand and bring it along; that’s success. If it’s not around five years from now, we have failed, but we won’t. The lovers of our cities will breathe new life into iterations of it.
I know when each of you talks about your city, as you beam with pride; you are the best ambassadors your city has to offer. The ultimate test of our success and yours will come as our cities continue to grow. We will watch as the perception of our city is formed in the eyes of our residents and the entire nation.
Attached is a link to our city’s branding portfolio. Feel free to R & D (rob and duplicate), that’s the best part of our partnerships. Make sure you are committed; this effort will have its critics and needs long- term commitment. If this blog helped you decide to drive an effort to re-brand and galvanize your community; good for you. I guarantee it will be one of the most rewarding tasks you and your team have the honor of leading. Before you do, don’t forget to; take their temperature, do some research, involve them in the effort, make sure you are authentic and, most importantly, enjoy the ride!