Yes, You Can Afford Community Brand Activation

Limited resources? Focus on high-impact, low-cost ways to introduce your brand.

When municipalities invest in developing a place brand, there is often some intimidation when it comes to launching the brand into the market. Significant time and financial investments were contributed to research and create an identity that is authentic to the place they call home, but there may not be a lot of money left to activate the brand across all marketing channels and make that big splash we sometimes see from brands.

Even if you don’t have a large marketing budget, there are several cost-effective ways to put your place brand to work. It may take some creativity and the ability to embrace a long-term perspective, but there are some simple, low-cost ways to engage the community so that they can get to know their new identity and be empowered to use it.

You can first start with digital and lower cost items that have the ability to quickly reach a wide audience. While successful brand activation is so much more than promoting a logo and strapline, digital elements like email signatures, social media assets and e-newsletter templates are great basic elements that can help you start to spread brand awareness. You can also look at some temporary transitional items like magnets for municipal vehicles if vinyl wraps aren’t an option and reusable pole banners if entryway signage is a project down the road.

Another significant way to build momentum for a new brand is through public/private partnerships. Your business community should already be invested in your marketing approach and goals, so getting them to be involved in brand activation can bring in incremental dollars that add power without cost. Some ideas include partnering with a local brewery to create a branded beer or working with your local college or university on co-branded collateral for incoming students to welcome them to the community. Broader community involvement and investment in the brand creates traction that goes far beyond your marketing plans.

One of the more creative ideas we’ve seen is places working with their local artist community. For a relatively small investment you can create some truly unique art that enhances the culture of your community and embraces your new brand and your marketing efforts. Take a look around and see what opportunities your community landscape already presents. Blank building walls, sidewalks and roadways or even a central community structure in need of updating can all be used as blank slates for artists to create something unique that can help propel the brand forward in new and creative ways.

Finally, there is also an important philosophy to have when launching your new identity. The first instinct among a lot of communities that have worked hard to help build their new brand is to hold on to it tightly and put limits on usage. Some people may think that they need to control the brand with strict usage guidelines to mitigate the risk of improper usage. However, this can in fact create the opposite effect by limiting distribution of the brand and making it harder for the community to be able to embrace the new brand. Find balance between control and use. Make it easily available and easy to use with proper guidance and your new brand will embed itself into your community faster.

Don’t think that you need a ton of money to activate your place brand (although it would be nice). The launch of the brand may bring a lot of eyeballs and interest at first, but the true success of any place branding effort is its ability to integrate within the fabric of your community over time and drive actions and behaviors. When executed correctly, the spirit of the community and the brand that represents it will become intertwined.