How Bakersfield Rewrote Its Narrative

Kern County, California, and its largest city Bakersfield sounded familiar to some, but most just know of it in passing on the way to glitz and glamour or gigawatts in other major California metros, especially nearby Los Angeles.

Bakersfield carried an out-of-date reputation as a smoggy place in the Central Valley known for the smells of emissions from its vast (and prolific) oil refineries and agriculture base. To its credit, it’s a place famous for the Bakersfield Sound, a west coast genre of country music that emerged in the late 1950s with names like Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and later Dwight Yoakam. In expansive Kern County, in addition to incredible outdoor recreation, they’re known for breaking the sound barrier. Facilities like Edwards Air Force Base, the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and the Mojave Air & Space Port are home to world-class aerospace technologies. So, there was plenty of good to talk about in Bakersfield and Kern County, it was just trapped under an old narrative.

The city, county and partners wanted people to know the region holds the opportunities to rival those along the coasts, paired with price tags that don’t cause sticker shock. North Star research revealed it is the rare place in California where you can still have it all, except for shared apartments and hours-long traffic. And though many limelight seekers and startup founders only pass through, those who stay find a chance at the American Dream.

Blessed with natural resources and perfect weather, families have long harnessed the gifts of Kern County’s giving ground to fill dinner tables and fuel communities. Today, Kern is the statewide leader in agriculture and renewable energy. North Star identified a strategic positioning and creative tools for each that allow Bakersfield to invite audiences to listen for the sound of something better along these famous streets and Kern County to encourage folks to understand the grounded and boundless opportunity offered here.

Prior to creative brand development, North Star shaped this strategic DNA statement for Bakersfield:

For those who appreciate the original sound of an authentic welcome, Bakersfield is where Los Angeles becomes the Central Valley and where you find the heart of California’s giving ground, so everyone has a chance to find something better.

From there, North Star created a new vision and narrative for the brand to help people see this remarkable city and county as they should – as welcoming homes of the American Dream for individuals, families, visitors and corporations. You can view some of the creative work here.

The Bakersfield repositioning reminds of the opportunity so many American cities have: shedding old perceptions and storylines with new and compelling truths. As they say, you can tell your story, or others will tell it for you. Let’s talk soon about how we can help you own your city’s narrative. Our informational Webex is an easy, no-obligation way to start.  To schedule a Webex, use this form to contact us.