The Essential Roadmap to Developing Brands for Cities and Communities
For the past couple of decades, savvy communities, cities and municipalities around the country have experienced the exponential benefits of branding. Defining and developing a comprehensive brand identity can go a long way to stimulate growth for a local economy. The implementation of a successful branding initiative entices new businesses, attracts homebuyers, expands tourism, supports local retail and dining establishments, and infuses hope, pride and unification into the hearts of community members. Whether it is a new brand for a residential development or complete revamp of a city’s existing brand, the investment is wise and worth the effort. Branding has the power to breathe new life into every corner of a community and bring brighter visions to light. It is an involved and multi-faceted process that takes time, commitment and the expertise of a qualified firm that specializes in branding. Simply hiring a “full-service” ad agency to create logo symbol and quippy slogan won’t take a community where it wants to go. It must be an all-in effort that successfully extends to every community touchpoint in an authentic and engaging way. If the brand is not true to the place and the people, community members will not buy in, and then it’s back to square one, which could cost the community a fortune. Making the investment to do it right the first time will save community leaders a lot of headaches and a lot of money in the long run. Community branding requires a thoughtful and thorough approach that yields a full understanding of the history, culture, values and distinguishing characteristics that make a place, and the people who live there, special.
Below are a few pointers to follow and success stories of communities that invested in a transformational branding initiative.
Find and Define the True Essence of a Place. A Community Brand Should Capture the Lifestyle and Create an Emotional Connection.
The City Of Vestavia Hills
A charming Southern city with a 60-year history, Vestavia Hills is beautifully set against the backdrop of the Appalachian foothills. The residents hold their hometown in high esteem, but have struggled for decades to communicate who they were as a community. A comprehensive rebranding initiative harnessed the quiet pride of the residents and clearly articulated what they’d been trying to say all along. The authentic brand identity resonated so deeply with residents, that for the first time ever they were able to say without reservation, “that’s us.” A new city logo features the iconic Sibyl Temple encircled by the city’s beloved dogwood flower. The symbol’s eternal flame represents a commitment to uphold the shared community values of unity, prosperity and family. New messaging was inspired by a culture of ingenuity that fuels the elevated lifestyle and the pioneering spirit of the first residents who made a historical migration up Shades Mountain in search of higher ground and broader perspectives. A total redesign of the website streamlined the user experience with increased functionality, and visually intuitive icons made the site easier to navigate. Rolling hills and highways fracture the community, so newly designed signage and a clear wayfinding system helped to define the city’s boundaries and further the goal to keep retail and dining dollars within city limits. A new a “Shop, Dine and Play” campaign supported the effort and event and festival concepts and implementation strategies turned fresh ideas in citywide traditions. A lifestyle video and look book captured the true sense of the place and provided potential residents and businesses a grand-scale view of life in Vestavia Hills. The city’s investment in an authentic brand will forever be perceived by residents as a gift to treasure and embrace for generations to come.
A comprehensive rebranding initiative harnessed the quiet pride of the residents and clearly articulated what they’d been trying to say all along. The authentic brand identity resonated so deeply with residents, that for the first time ever they were able to say without reservation, “that’s us.”
See more about the Vestavia Hills brand →
Bring Community Visions To Life. Lead a Brand with Strategic Thinking, and Success will Follow.
The integrity of a vision is defined by the ability to clearly communicate it. When a group of entrepreneurs and conservationists set out to create the Millican Reserve community development, they envisioned a lifestyle centered around stewardship and healthy living, but they needed buy-in from surrounding communities and investors for the vision to take root. A series of ideas needed to be turned into one, unified vision that could be clearly articulated and shared with potential stakeholders. Brands that foster emotional connections are twice as likely to succeed, so it was important to understand the core motivators of the audience. Deep exploration was key in articulating the Millican Reserve experience, and that meant hiking the hills, listening to the people, researching the valley, the vernacular, the traditions and the architectural history that defined the place. Every insight became a facet of the brand identity. The tagline “A Land of Promise” guided the brand voice and messaging. Strong family ties, a sense of belonging and closeness to nature were central values represented by logo symbol’s three acorns. The intertwined branches demonstrated the promise of a tight-knit community. The brand illustrated the full potential of life at Millican Reserve. Retail shops, restaurants and events were conceptualized, named and branded. Logos, storefront signage, packaging, posters and wayfinding solutions were created to establish a comprehensive look and feel that could extend to every detail of the place. Perspective homeowners viewed 3D model of future homes and discussed the vision around the stone table on marked plots of land. A vision book provided investors and stakeholders a vivid picture of amenities and events with detail, strategic thinking and foresight. As the community came to life, the vision grew and inspired new ideas of what Millican Reserve could become and shaped who they are today.
Brands that foster emotional connections are twice as likely to succeed, so it was important to understand the core motivators of the audience.
See more about the Millican Reserve brand →
Honor the Heritage of the Area. A Meaningful Community Brand Embraces the Past as a Way Forward.
The Bray is a new 700-acre live, work, play development set in the heart of Liberty Park, a master-planned, community located in Alabama’s old coal country. The brand honors the area’s role in fueling the state’s early economy and the industrial roots of the land with historically inspired creative solutions for a new development designed to offer homebuyers a more modern and walkable way of life. The brand identity created for The Bray pays homage to the history at every step. The name, “The Bray” is a creative nod to the rags-to-riches story of the Drummond family coal heritage and the hardworking mule the owners put up as collateral to start their business. The sound that mules and donkeys make, called the bray, honors the noble contribution of the company mules that worked alongside miners and hauled heavy loads to the surface. The logo symbol is simple and straightforward and tells a historical story with a modern edge. The mark, a “B” intersected by a rugged mining axe, reinforces the township’s name, the unique legacy of the land and the modern mixed-use community concept. The brand was extended to inspire the architectural style of the common spaces and market center. Reclaimed industrial parts from heavy mining equipment and other materials such as steel and stone were utilized throughout the design solutions for wayfinding, signage, storefronts and architectural elements through the town village. The “Black Mule” coffee shop brand concept was created as part of the initiative and included naming as well as logo, packaging and storefront design. The Bray’s comprehensive brand identity forged new pride for Liberty Park residents, and the creative implementation was instrumental in boosting pre-construction sales and securing sought-after retailers for the development.
The brand honors the area’s role in fueling the state’s early economy and the industrial roots of the land with historically inspired creative solutions for a new development designed to offer homebuyers a more modern and walkable way of life.