When done incorrectly a city branding project is just an expensive logo design project. However, when done correctly a city branding project creates a comprehensive platform and quickly pays for itself. This is done by creating efficiencies in brand management, as well as attracting investment, visitors and talent to your community, and by presenting the city in a clear and positive light to residents and businesses, and most importantly by fostering and inspiring civic pride in current residents.
When departments and organizations are all using different logos and brands, a lot of time and money is wasted in maintaining all of them. Cities are starting to realize that investing in an effective brand will save them money and time in the long run. But it’s not just money that’s driving cities around the globe to make a change. It’s also to break down barriers and create a positive relationship with their residents.
Residents, business owners and visitors alike can be easily confused by the number of brands, unsure of where the government ends and private organizations begin.
Inconsistent branding can cost a city a lot of money just to have staff maintain the files. Instead of many employees working on different brands, you could have a single designated staff member who serves as a brand manager, keeping everyone in the same lane.
Chicago estimates it can save anywhere from $5 million to $10 million a year by taking some simple steps to unify the design of 29 different departments around the city with its brand.
A brand gets everyone on the same page, headed towards the same goal. With clearly defined brand principles, there is a filter or lens for community leadership and residents to make decisions for their city. Visually, a brand can give clear guidelines for departments and organizations and create a united look and feel.
A goal for any brand is getting credit. It’s easy for residents to see road construction or a pothole and blame the city. But they should also see a summer concert series or a downtown event and also “blame” the city. A brand with a cohesive look and feel can do that.
When we hosted a city branding workshop for city officials in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it became very clear that the city was spending a lot of money, time and effort across many department endeavors but were not being recognized for it. A cohesive brand isn’t just about efficiency but also effectiveness.
Without a cohesive brand that every department and organization can utilize, there are too many lines cast in the pond. While it may seem like having more creates more, it’s not nearly as efficient. A unified brand can act as a net and serve all departments and organizations.
When you have a logo and streamlined messaging, you can brand the opportunities your city provides and get the credit you deserve. You don’t want your residents to only remember the construction, you want them to remember all of the memorable events and opportunities you offered them too.
While the City of Oslo is claiming to save $5 million a year from their new branding, the benefits go beyond just financial – “The city was also aware, through polling, that citizens were confused by the multitudes of brands, unsure of where the government ended and private and nonprofit sectors began. It was very difficult to understand what the city does: ‘How is my tax money spent?’”
In other words, the rebrand doesn’t just save the city of Oslo money. It proves the government’s value to its citizens, too.
When approaching a rebrand, it’s important to keep key stakeholders included in the process. Your most valuable stakeholder? Your residents.
When you open up the process and keep residents engaged, they feel part of the brand. Which they very much are – without residents, you wouldn’t have a city. By opening up public forums and creating surveys to get design or messaging feedback, your residents take ownership.
When the new brand launches, your residents will feel a sense of civic pride towards your city’s new look and feel. They will want to wear a t-shirt with the new logo and talk to their friends about moving there.
It’s not just about the people who call your city home, it’s also about those who visit and grow businesses. Cities with a strong identity and clear communication efforts are more attractive to entrepreneurs, investors and visitors. As CivicBrand, CEO wrote in a recent Forbes article titled Branding is The New Economic Development, “Effective branding isn’t smoke and mirrors or fabricating something out of nothing. It’s about discovering what truly makes an area unique — even if it currently just lies in potential — and then building a platform and strategy around it that nurtures that brand and attracts others who share that value and vision.”
Fostering an open relationship with residents, and business owners too, will break down traditional barriers between the city and its people. You’ll see more involvement from the public as they start to feel a sense of belonging. Which in turn, will create a community that wants to grow.
Rebranding your city is an investment, not an expense. From our experience, we see that a cohesive brand not only saves the city money, it helps the city become more efficient and effective in its marketing and economic development efforts and most importantly, fosters civic pride in the community.