Conversations with North Star, Part 2, Building the Right Strategy

Your Community Research Phase Is Completed. Now Let’s Build the Right Strategy.

In part one of our Q&A series, we sat down with Roberto Munoz to share various research methods and how they play a role in providing you with the right insights from your community.

For part two of the series, North Star’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning Ed Barlow guided us through the process of building the right brand development strategy post research. Let’s dive in.

You’ve collected (a lot of) insights from your community. Now what? 

The next step is to move into the formation of your brand’s DNA. In other words, creating that concise and strategic statement of a community capturing everything relevant that the research revealed. The statement should illuminate what is distinct, authentic and ownable about your community.

What practical steps should a community take when building this strategy and DNA statement?

The most important and practical step is to continuously remind yourself of the project’s “why.” What are we trying to achieve with this brand? Does it tell our unique story and will it help us accomplish our municipal, organizational or economic development goals? It’s easy to drift from this ultimate objective. As you progress, never lose sight of it.

What’s the most important aspect to achieve when building a strategy? 

A brand is more than a logo, colors and slogan. Therefore, the strategy must inspire a brand that serves as a lever for the community. A brand rooted in strategy arms the community with a tool that helps them compete in the marketplace.

For example, Fargo, North Dakota’s “North of Normal” brand strategy exists to create intrigue and drive discovery about the area as a tourism destination. As part of their brand implementation, Fargo has highlighted places across their community that you’re not likely to find elsewhere – North of Normal, if you will.

That might be a colored pencil fence at the local zoo, “Mario” street art or a “crazy tree” near a local college campus – all must-sees for adventurists.


What should you avoid when building your brand strategy?

Trying to be too many things. There’s a saying that the essence of strategy is sacrifice. That means you must give up certain attributes to allow your greatest strengths to stand apart.

Focus on the few aspects that you can truly own. We’re a believer that every community is the center of the universe of something. We’re here to help you discover it.

You know you have the right strategy when…

When the community embraces the brand on its own.

In one way, that could mean residents and businesses adopt the brand within their daily lives, such as when a local brewery in Marshall, Minnesota created a craft beer “Cultivated Pale Ale” to celebrate the city’s “Cultivating the Best in Us” brand.

In another way, and even more importantly, the right strategy, brand and story contribute to economic development efforts and other macro goals. When community leaders are leveraging the brand in their growth initiatives, planning or events – and it resonates with residents and prospects and drives wins – you know you’ve got it right.

At North Star Place Branding + Marketing, we’re out to help you find what makes your community unique. Stay tuned for part three of our Q&A series, which will focus on the fun stuff: best practices for visually bringing your brand DNA to life.