How to Market Your City? Be Brave…Very Brave.

When a community are setting out on a city marketing and branding initiative, the starting point is determining your goals are for place brand. Because once you have determined the strategic brand platform for your community, there are a number of different directions the creative can go . . . totally safe, middle of the road and completely unique and different. One of our most successful client stories is the Hub-Bub brand developed for Spartanburg, South Carolina. Every time we tell that story – during a prospective client meeting, at a conference or to a client – our audience gets excited, often asking, “We would love something like that. How in the world did you get community leaders to agree to such an edgy brand?” Our response, “The Spartanburg mayor was very, very brave.”

A totally safe brand will allow your community to look more buttoned-up and professional, but you won’t stand out in a crowd or make any waves. It may result in little push back from stakeholders and residents, but does it truly get you where you want to go? To get people buzzing, a completely different creative approach is the ticket.

Taking creative chances will set your community apart. You must put a stake in the ground and definitively declare what you are and what you are not. You must be willing to take some heat for your bravery and be even more focused on communicating the “why” as much as the “what” because when people talk, the talk will be both positive and negative. Keeping your long-term goals in mind will give you the confidence to take that bold step.

However, we also completely understand the nature of politics. It is much easier to take risks when marketing a consumer product because the cookies don’t have an opinion about how you promote them. Residents, stakeholders and businesses, on the other hand, definitely have an opinion how you promote their community. If your brand is too extreme it could become mired in controversy. Having a feel for the nature of your community and what you want your brand to do is critical before embarking on any type of creative decision making.

Regardless of your approach, stay away from “me too” messaging that your consumers – residents, visitors and businesses – hear every day. You can learn more about this and other things to avoid in our post Top 10 Place Branding Blunders but don’t be afraid to take the leap and get out of your community’s comfort zone. Place branding is as much about who you want to be as is it who you are. Finding that path and sticking to it will help you stay brave through a challenging process.