Branding drive now under way for Springs

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Denver is the Mile-High City, Huntsville, Ala., is the Rocket City, and New York City is The Big Apple.

And Colorado Springs?

It has plenty of attractive qualities, but despite repeated efforts, none have been successfully harnessed to create a brand.

This could be the year that changes.

After seeing its budget slashed last year, the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau was able to set aside $80,000 in its budget this year for branding.

Dave White, executive VP of marketing for the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., created a branding subcommittee of the EDC’s marketing arm in 2009. Amy Long, VP of marketing and membership for the CVB, has led the committee since then.

But the branding project was sidelined because of the leadership change at the CVB, and uncertainty about the strong-mayor proposal. Doug Price is now at the helm of the CVB, and a strong-mayor will be elected in April.

So, now that things are settling, several civic organizations in town — including the CVB, the city, the chamber, the Economic Development Corp., UCCS and the county — are collaborating to create a brand.

No one expects a brand to emerge overnight.

Finding a brand, organizers say, will require plenty of collaboration and creativity. And although it seems simple enough, it also will mean getting everyone at the table to agree on the very definition of a brand.

“It’s organic. It’s the truth as it exists,” Long said. “You can’t create a brand out of thin air. It’s what people already think of you.”

In other words, it cannot be created and embraced just because it sounds good.

Of course, everyone has a different opinion about what defines the community.

Some see it as the amateur sports capital of the nation, while others say it’s a hub for space-related industries, and still others tout the great outdoors.

As Long sees it, the job of the branding project and the committee is to discover the brand, articulate it and communicate it.

Which, again, is easier said than done.

“A brand can’t be about a thing, such as the weather, or Pikes Peak. It needs to make an emotional connection,” she said.

In addition, the brand must encompass far more than tourism, sporting events and group meetings. It needs to work for the entire community. The EDC needs to be able to use the brand to attract companies to move to the region, for instance, and the chamber needs to be able to use it to promote business, as well.

“We all want a common foundation,” Long said.

Each organization, of course, has a different message because they have different target audiences.

Furthermore, the brand needs to be long-lived; it’s not something that changes with the years or seasons, because it’s a core truth about the region.

“The ad campaign and how you message it might change each year, but the underlying brand should have longevity,” she said.

Another important consideration is for the brand to work well when organizations promote the USOC and the Olympic Training Center.

“Without being too sports-specific, we have to make sure (the brand) supports that.”

Rather than artificially putting things together, she said, the brand needs to “feel comfortable” with those vital sports entities.

Long hopes to have the concept — the brand idea — by the middle of this year. The next phase would be the creative design and logo development.

If all goes as planned, that would be ready to use for the CVB’s 2012 campaign.

The branding project was one of the specific recommendations made by Angelou Economics in the Operation 6035 economic development report.

More than a dozen people have been involved in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the community, and how best to communicate the region’s strongest assets in a brand.

The need for a brand certainly was no surprise to people in the tourism and job-attraction industry.

“Just because we haven’t been able to do it in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try now,” White said. “It’s a (huge) issue for the Pikes Peak region.”

“If you don’t market yourself, then others will brand you for you,” he said.

Send us your ideas

What do you think the best brand slogan might be for Colorado Springs? Let us hear from you.

Other city slogans

1. What Happens Here, Stays Here — Las Vegas

2. So Very Virginia — Charlottesville, Va.

3. Always Turned On — Atlantic City, N.J.

4. Cleveland Rocks! — Cleveland

5. The Sweetest Place on Earth — Hershey, Pa.

6. Rare. Well Done — Omaha, Neb.

7. The City Different — Santa Fe, N.M.

8. Where Yee-Ha Meets Olé — Eagle Pass, Texas

9. City with Sol — San Diego

10. Where the Odds Are With You — Peculiar, Mo.