On community branding

I have reviewed a lot of community branding and marketing efforts in the past couple of years. I won’t single any out because I don’t want to annoy residents of those communities and because they may be clients (or may be in the future?).

I once asked the CEO of a local economic development organization why he was running so many advertisments in En Route magazine. For his target market it seemed so strange to me. His candid reply was “because my board of directors likes to see city x being advertised when they fly to Toronto”.

I asked another Executive Director of an ED organization why he was advertising the “invest in city x” message in local magazines. That sounded counterintutitive to me. He said the reason was to raise awareness of the organization in the local market.

Then I could name you a number of communities that are blatantly self-aggrandizing in their branding and promotional activities. Again, the audience for this seems to be internal, it would seem.

My point here is that I am not convinced that local economic development folks understand their market and how to promote themselves to it (I am talking about attracting industry).

It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of effort – from logo creation through to advertising is focused on what would look good to the local audience.

All this crap about best city for this and best city for that – if it is not independently verified – is just over the top mumbo jumbo.

I have no problem if a community promotes winning some award or recognition that is third party. I do have a problem with arrogant branding and promotion.

New Brunswick is a province that is struggling. The pervasive theme that should thread through all of our promotional activity provincial and local should be that we are trying to improve ourselves and that we will work harder to gain your business.

Let’s face it. New Brunswick is the underdog. It has to be more aggressive. More focused. More down to earth.

If Lada or Yugo started branding themselves as “The Best Car in the World, Bar None” it would come across as downright silly. I think the analogy holds for provinces/states and cities.

If New Brunswick is too over the top it will come across as silly externally (while maybe trying to mask over insecurities locally).

Ultimately, the problem with preaching to the choir this message of greatness is that eventually we will start to believe it and will have no real appetite to change.