This email is from Brian at a small Mid-west chamber of commerce, “Is it possible for a local committee to brainstorm and decide our city brand without using an agency or consultant?”
In these tough economic times we are seeing an increasing number of communities try to define their brand identity themselves, without professional assistance. Periodically, this approach works out, but usually the end result is an anemic proposition that has been diluted to gain agreement and avoid dissent.
A major challenge for community leaders who adopt the do-it-yourself approach is being objective and customer-focused. This may be the place where participants were born and educated, and these locals sometimes have a bias that limits their view of the city from the perspective of a prospective outside visitor, investor or new resident. They frequently bypass serious competitor analysis or a detailed review of external customers’ needs and perceptions. The results consistently demonstrate the need for qualified outside advice and guidance to lend the impartiality and objectivity that is often very difficult to get from within the community. Some of the communities we have worked with initially attempted to define their brand positioning and identity themselves. After struggling with their own internal dynamics, they realized that an outside specialist can succeed with breakthrough ideas where stagnation, acrimony and local politics may otherwise limit progress because of limited understanding, entrenched attitudes and a reluctance to cooperate with long-standing opponents.
Engaging outside specialists also allows the place to harness the experience and skills that may not be available locally. A qualified consultant can guide the leadership through all of the difficult analysis and decisions that may be overlooked or glossed over by locals. Many cities and even their communications agencies have an increasing appreciation for the expertise needed to address the complexities and demands of place branding. We have experienced this when some advertising agencies have wisely recognized that they were not place brand strategists and hired us to develop the brand strategy component for their clients.
Developing a place branding strategy that will be truly distinctive, resonate with target audiences, deliver outstanding experiences and unify stakeholders can be very tricky. It calls for collaboration with an experienced, qualified place branding specialist.