By Jim Walton, CEO, Brand Acceleration, Inc.
We often receive calls from economic developers telling us they “need a new brand.” Although we know that the caller is really referring to a logo, I think it’s important to understand just what a brand is.
First off, your logo is not your brand. It is simply a visual brand stimulus. When someone sees your logo, it should stimulate feelings, thoughts, and emotions related to your community.
Let’s use McDonald’s as an example. When you see the golden arches, you likely experience something. In your mind, you know what’s inside, don’t you? You know what the building will look like, what the menu includes, how the staff will be dressed, even how the place will smell. That’s the brand promise. If you ever went inside and found that everything had changed, the promise would be broken and you’d be disappointed.
Does a business or community need a logo to enjoy a strong brand promise? Not at all. I know of many businesses that have solid reputations, but no logo. When I was a child, we had a popular cafe in my home town that was named after the lady who owned it. Marge’s had no logo, no fancy advertising, and no brand manager. It only had Marge. It was an informal little place with the best fried chicken, meat loaf, beef and noodles, and mashed potatoes you ever tasted. Most of all, it had Marge. The brand was legendary. People from miles around came for the food, friendly service, and Marge. She was a vivacious lady who chatted with every customer. She was their friend and everyone loved her.
There are a lot of ways you can improve your brand’s reach. For example, you can make a video and put it on YouTube. Instead of starting from zero views, you can start from a few thousand to quickly put things in gear by just buying youtube views from the right places. It’s a great way of kick-starting your campaigns.
What we often find is that when someone calls us, their community already has a brand. It may have a reputation, either good or bad, but no logo. We also sometimes find that the community has no brand. No reputation at all. That’s not necessarily bad, though. It may mean the community leaders have a clean slate and an opportunity to create a brand reputation where nothing exists.
At a time when unemployment rates are often very low, attracting a workforce where no reputation exists can be especially challenging. These are times when community development is more important than ever. Area stakeholders and leaders may have to rethink ways to grow a strong quality of place in order to attract skilled workers to fill existing and future jobs. Maker spaces, entry way development, community activities, attractive landscaping, and incentives for retail development are becoming commonplace. If your population has flat lined or is shrinking, a strong effort to improve your offering may have to be considered.
Although we would gladly assist you with a new logo and branding campaign, our experience indicates that a holistic effort to create an attractive place must be part of the program. The most successful efforts include the very serious involvement of young adults. Those under-thirty-five workers are your community’s future. They must be part of your visioning. A bunch of sixty-something folks talking about ways to attract and retain millennials will struggle to achieve success.
When you consider communities with hot brands, especially in the eyes of young professionals, cities such as Austin, Denver, Asheville, Denver, and Chattanooga come to mind. Without conducting a Google search, do you have any idea what their logos look like? See what I mean?
So, to answer the title question, “Can a new logo cure your workforce attraction challenges?” No. As one of my old bosses used to say, “You can’t shine Sh**!” If a community lacks what it takes to attract and retain workers and residents, a shiny new logo won’t fix it. On the flip side, though, if your community has what prospective workers and residents want, but they’re still not coming there, then we should talk. Maybe a well thought out marketing campaign should be considered.