How to Cultivate a Successful Community Brand

One of the first questions that we ask leaders and stakeholders as we begin the branding research process is, “What does success look like?” And the answers range from consistency in message to a better logo to bringing the community together to making opportunity available to all to lower unemployment to resolving political strife and more.  Some tangible. Some not. Some plausible. Some not.

Different communities will measure success in many different ways based on goals and priorities; none of which are wrong. But there is one clear way to know that your brand has taken root and is meaningful and relevant for those in the community. The most successful community brands go beyond a municipal-driven initiative. They become part of the fabric of the community.

When you can involve the non-profit and private sectors in the brand, your likelihood for success is better, faster, and stronger. North Star advocates for including all segments of the community from the beginning. Who better understands what makes a place special than those who spend their daily lives there? By listening to those stakeholders in the marketplace, you will discover how your community can stand out in its marketplace. We have those conversations in communities over coffee and sometimes a beer.

We did just that at Brau Brothers Brewery in Marshall, MN. Our research uncovered a demonstrative and consistent thread throughout Marshall: a strong sense of community dedicated to individual achievement and collective growth. This traditionally agricultural community is home to global innovators and those iconic ice cream trucks (Schwan’s) that you may have seen down your street. Southwest Minnesota State University also calls Marshall home.

Marshall’s “Cultivating the Best in Us” brand was introduced in Spring 2020 just as we were looking inward when lockdowns and quarantines began. Marshall leveraged the brand not only for municipal purposes but also across the community. Just as the research revealed, those in Marshall are always looking forward, perhaps the legacy of the ever-optimistic agrarian tradition. That lean into what’s next included Brau Brothers Brewery. They spent some of that quarantine working with Centennial and Cascade hops, classic pale malt, and a clean fermenting traditional yeast.  The tasty result was Cultivate Pale Ale.

Brau Brothers owner, Dustin Brau explained that Cultivate Pale Ale, the brewery’s first-ever collaboration, was his opportunity to show his appreciation and support for Marshall and its authentic new brand. “After all the City has done to help us in our progression, we wanted to use this opportunity to say, ‘Thank you.’ Not only to the City of Marshall but to the community for all the support over the years, particularly this year.” And the “old school” pale ale is good for business too.

North Star raises a glass to the City of Marshall and Brau Brothers Brewery for their successful collaboration that is emblematic of the community character we experienced during our visits there. We just wish it was a glass of Cultivate Pale Ale right now.  So as you pursue a renewed community brand wherever you are, grab a beer or your favorite local latte and get the owner to join you. We all know that we discover the best ideas and solve the world’s problems (or at least our local ones) when we listen and collaborate.