Michigan or Ohio State? Coke or Pepsi? Just like a favorite sports team or brand of soda, most people feel very passionate about where they live and how their city is publicly portrayed. However, there are number of cities that could use a hand when it comes to maximizing the effectiveness of their civic brand. In order to help a city improve its community engagement, tourism, viability, livability and pride, there are a number of strategies and tactics that city planners should embrace and implement.
Understand your place brand.
How people feel about your city is the most influential piece of the civic branding puzzle. If your city is known for the maximum security prison that sits in close proximity to your city limits, than you have to understand that may be the first thing people think about your city. Your brand may be “that’s where the prison is.” Your brand position and targeted messages will fail to connect with your audience if you do not fully understand how citizens and tourists perceive your city.
Sell your city.
Your city is a product to be sold and your civic brand is your tag line. If you have been able to clearly understand your place brand, positive or negative, you will be able to own and alter that message. Remember that your civic brand is a product and in order to sell that product you must engage the “consumer” beyond your city limits. Look into why tourists come to your city and why they should or should not return. Having an understanding of your city’s strengths and weaknesses will definitely help when trying to market your city to the rest of the world.
Forget about your logo.
We often hear that cities are “completing their branding campaign” only to find out they have changed their logo and website home page. Civic branding is about moving an audience from one place/idea/concept to another. Unfortunately, your logo or collateral materials have very little to with this. If your civic brand is the tag line, than your physical environment is the actual product that citizens and tourists are going to consume.
Changing or improving your overall civic brand does not happen overnight. It requires a sincere investment in creating a strategy and having all members of your planning committee buy into that strategy. Consider starting small by identifying a specific area of your city that can be easily improved and will work to drive civic engagement. Once completed, work to build momentum for future projects based off of the lessons learned from the smaller improvements that your city has already made.
Find a targeted strategy.
Some cities are the equivalent to that of a billionaire’s child; they benefit from a fortune and influences that they did not create. These fortunate few do not need a civic brand strategy because their brand is caught up in an ethereal concept and people are driven by that concept rather than the city itself. For cities that are not as lucky, a comprehensive brand strategy needs to be created before any economic development can take place. Work with your planning team to imagine that your current civic brand is on the western bank of a river and your target brand is on the eastern bank. Your strategy should be focused on safely moving your city from one bank to the other.
Cities all across America need to find a unique method to market themselves to the outside world in order to attract new residents, promote economic development and draw tourist dollars. Keeping these five tips in mind when trying to improve your civic brand will work to nurture your city’s own unique identity.