Has Branding Become a Dirty Word?


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Like it or not, your city already has a reputation in the market. Smart economic developers know that they must invest in comprehensive branding efforts to influence and shape that reputation. Getting support is not always easy. Branding has been getting a bad rap for too long, but there are a few steps you can take to secure greater endorsement for these initiatives.

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Has Branding Become a Dirty Word?

  1. 1. Has BrandingBecome a Dirty Word?Current issues foreconomic development professionalsEDAC / ACDEMarketing and CommunicationsWhite Paper SeriesDecember 2008
  2. 2. Earlier this quarter, blogs and media The idea was to promote the best that Newoutlets alike proclaimed that the state of York state has to offer, like its 150 vineyardsNew York had squandered millions of dollars or 400 golf courses – attractions oftenon a squirrel. Yes, you read that correctly: overshadowed by the “Big Apple” proper.Outrage over a squirrel. The logo, originally designed by MiltonHere’s a little bit of background: Glaser over 30 years ago, is one of the most iconic and successful place brandingNew York State’s department of tourism examples in history, and the task of revisitingcommissioned Saatchi & Saatchi to it would surely be a daunting one for anyre-engineer the ubiquitous I NY brand to agency. The results of the latest initiative arebetter reflect the state as a whole, rather shown below:than just New York City. wi n e & f o o d adventure c ul t ur a l h i st or y fine art culture family shopping scenic drives history heritage military history water spas & retreats sports
  3. 3. Whether you like what Saatchi & Saatchi logo – is no surprise. The disconnect occursdid or not, the coverage of this project and when the cost of a branding initiative isresulting public incredulity is a good example wholly attributed to the development of aof how branding can (and has) become a logo. This is rarely the case. Done properly,dirty word. Here are a few quotes from some logo and tagline development are simplyof the articles covering the story: a step in the process, and the majority of dollars are allocated to getting the new“Saatchi & Saatchi has charged New York identity and messaging out into the market.State $17 million for a clip art squirrel…” 1 The $17 million dollar figure quoted in“The campaign, which has lined the the case of the I NY is actually the costpockets of Saatchi & Saatchi…” 2 of the entire campaign. That means the creation of electronic and print collateral, the“Enjoy the BS … this is what the state of production of television ads and the cost ofNew York has paid Saatchi & Saatchi for. global media buys, to name a few. SaatchiYour tax dollars at work.” 3 & Saatchi are surely making a healthy profit from this project, but the $17 million figure isThis white paper does not intend to analyze oversimplified and completely erroneous. Itthe quality of the Saatchi & Saatchi’s just makes for a great story.efforts, but rather our intent is to discussthe misperceptions surrounding thishigh-profile initiative in particular, and all 2. Saatchi & Saatchi did not earn $17branding initiatives in general. It is these million to put some snow and a squirrelmisperceptions that have led to skepticism on the existing I NY logo.and resistance when it comes to branding,making the job of economic development The public, the media, and even most keymarketers much more difficult. stakeholders are often only privy to the final product with regard to the development of a visual identity. Think of McDonald’s golden arches or the Nike swoosh. These icons areLet’s start in New York incredibly simple. Something that could have been sketched on a cocktail napkin. ButThere are two things wrong with the article chances are, they weren’t.quotes above and almost every relatedarticle and blog post you will find about this The process of developing a visual identitystory: is involved, plodding and comprehensive. Unlike a one-time advertisement or event,1. Most of the money spent on your logo is the element of your marketing“branding” does not go towards logo and communications that you will have todevelopment but rather execution and live with for a very long time. It must makerollout. an impression in an instant. It must embody the essence of everything you stand for. It’sBranding is a nebulous term. Even those in a tall order indeed.the marketing and communications industrycannot always agree on its meaning and In the case of New York, Saatchi & Saatchiscope. As such, the tendency to lock onto had to consider how to achieve the objectivesomething concrete and tangible – like a of promoting the entire state
  4. 4. (as opposed to just the city) in the context It is the dentist’s training, expertise andof a long-standing and iconic visual identity. skill that makes the service provided worthThey used their expertise to determine more. The same holds true for brandingthat the loss of brand equity would be too professionals. It is true for logo developmentgreat with a new logo, so they extended and it is true for the subsequent executionthe existing logo with images they felt and rollout of the brand strategy.represented the best of New York State as awhole. They also added a bridgeline to helpemphasize that there are more reasons tolove New York than just the city itself: Bad rap branding traps and how to avoid them Marketing is an integral part of any economic development plan. It is the means to showcase what your municipality is doing in other areas of your economic development strategy. If you are making great strides in creating a business-friendlyAgain, the intent of this paper is not to climate but nobody knows about it, thendiscuss whether their efforts were a success the opportunity is missed entirely. Brandingor not, but rather to point out that the and marketing are foundational, not anbranding process is not as simple as the afterthought. But because they are sofinal product may lead you to believe. There intangible and imprecise, the challenge isis a significant amount of research and convincing everyone else of this necessity.planning involved. Competitive and SWOTanalyses. Dozens of concepts developed Most economic development professionalsand tossed out that are never seen because recognize the competitive advantagethe agency feels that they are just not strong associated with a strong municipal brand,enough. The final product is deceptively but many are reluctant to use the termsimple. Especially if it’s effective. “branding” when communicating with their stakeholders, because of its negativeA common reaction to a new city logo is: connotations.“My kid could have done that.” Perhaps.But what you are really paying for is the Like it or not, your city already has aexpertise and training that comes with hiring reputation in the market. Smart economica professional firm. Let’s look at a more developers know that they must invest inconcrete example: comprehensive branding efforts to influence and shape that reputation. Getting supportMost people wouldn’t blink twice at is not always easy. Branding has beenreceiving a bill for hundreds of dollars from getting a bad rap for too long, but there area dentist for an hour or two of work. The a few steps you can take to secure greaterreality is that with the right set of pliers you endorsement for these initiatives. They arecan get a tooth pulled for much less than discussed in the next section.that. The end result is the same – yourtooth is out – but you get what you pay for.
  5. 5. 1. Foster understanding: A logo is not 3. Be true to your brandyour brand This point was discussed in the SeptemberBranding initiatives are misrepresented as 2008 EDAC White Paper, “Place Brandinga public launch of a flashy new logo and in Practice”, but it is worth mentioning againclever tagline. In this context, the dollars here. Done correctly, your branding andspent do seem exorbitant, especially during marketing efforts should build on the verydifficult economic times. It is your job as an best your municipality has to offer. Theyeconomic development marketer to educate should reflect your true strengths and takeothers about the real scope of a branding a stand about the unique value propositioninitiative. that sets you apart from other regions.Whether it is a media release or a To realize the returns on your brandpresentation to council, avoid the temptation investment, every interaction point with yourto shine the spotlight on the visual identity municipality must align with your overallonly. Ensure that you discuss the process brand. If your message is one of a city thatthat sits behind what they are seeing in front is easy to do business with, then ensuringof them, as well as the brand strategy and that this is the case at every step must beplan for execution. a top priority. If you are promoting green principles then visitors to your community2. Avoid post-launch complacency should see these efforts all around them. If the experience doesn’t match the promise,The unveiling of a new brand via a public then the brand becomes hollow and it reallylaunch is a common practice. Drawing is nothing more than a logo.on the point above, use the launch as anopportunity to educate about how themoney is really being spent and the value In closingcreated by engaging in a professionalbranding initiative. Economic Developers can learn from theFurther, ensure that a plan is in place to experience in New York. Education andallow you to hit the ground running following demonstrating results are far more importantthe launch. Quickly executing your strategy than the launch of a logo. Branding willand getting your brand message to market cease to be a dirty word if we fosterwill sustain momentum and provide you understanding about the scope, the purposewith concrete examples of the value being and the intended results of these initiatives.created by the branding process. Measuressuch as increased website traffic, responseto email campaigns, and meeting businessexpansion and recruitment targets are allindicators of your brand’s penetration in the About the Authormarket. It is critical to monitor, measure and On Three Communication Design Inc. is a creative agencyreport on success, as well as tweaking your specializing in promoting places not products. For morestrategy accordingly when something is not information and insight, visit them at www.onthree.caworking as you had hoped it would. or read the blog at http://blog.onthree.ca.
  6. 6. Endnotes1. Edwards, Jim. “NY Spends $17 Million on Saatchi ‘Clip Art’ Logo” bnet, November 14, 2008.Accessed November 15, 20082. McGrath, Ginny. “New York’s new logo and why squirrels don’t work for me “, Times Online,November 13, 2008. Accessed November 15, 20083. “Introducing the Saatchi & Saatchi ‘I Love New York’ logo guide.” Tribble Ad Agency, November 14,2008. Accessed November 15, 2008About this White Paper SeriesEDAC is pleased to announce a new service for our members to support yourcommunications activities.Over the next year, EDAC will release a series of six white papers that explore current issuesin marketing and communication as they relate to economic development.Topics include:Place Branding in Practice (September 2008)Has Branding Become a Dirty Word? (December 2008)Small Communities: Special Considerations for Building a Competitive Brand (January 2009)Buy-in Begins at Home: The Importance of Stakeholder Support (February 2009)Making the Most of Your Communications Budget (March 2009)Ambassadors: Your Secret Marketing Weapon (April 2009)