It’s a story that is often misrepresented in the national media, said Price, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau and chairman of the Mayor’s Branding Taskforce.
Without a unified message, the city is always on the defensive and never on the offensive, he said.
“We need to come together with a consistent message,” he said.
This week, nearly 100 business leaders and residents gathered at the U.S. Olympic Training Center to brainstorm possible brands for Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. They talked about the reasons why they like living in Colorado Springs — it’s a big city with a small town feel; it’s welcoming; it has a highly educated and trained workforce; it’s gorgeous; and there are limitless possibilities in career, family and outdoor adventure, they said.
The two-day meeting was the final step in gathering community input toward the creation of a branding strategy that can be used for marketing and advertising campaigns that define and hype the city.
In May, the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, as part of the Colorado Springs Mayor’s Branding Task Force, hired Stone Mantel brand and strategy firm with the express mission of formulating a branding platform. The goal of a city or regional brand is to position the city as a front-running community for economic rebound, the taskforce said when it announced the contract with Stone Mantel, a Colorado Springs-based firm.
History shows that some of the best branding strategies, by cities and corporations, were born in the midst of recessions, said Dave Norton, Stone Mantel principal and lead strategist.
In the 1980s, brands were about the logo, or brand recognition. In the 1990s, brands were about the experience. In 2003, it was about brand truth — you had to stand for something that was true beyond profit, Norton said.
Today, in the current recession, consumer sensibility has been shaken, Norton said. People are making decisions about how they live and what they buy based on limited resources. The filter they apply to decisions is: “Will it make me happier?”
All the major brands are now making a promise about happiness, he said.
“Whatever we do, we have to be in alignment with peoples’ mindset,” he said.
Norton said the firm is trying to address three audiences: residents, visitors and businesses that Colorado Springs is trying to keep or attract.
In 2007, Anchorage, Ala. followed the same branding process, led by Stone Mantel and one other firm, and built its brand strategy around the idea that it was a city of abundance. Its brand, “Big Wild Life,” sought “to express the unique, larger-than-life lifestyle of Anchorage residents,” city officials said. In the past five years, the Big Wild Life slogan has been put on T-shirts, websites and used in business marketing and advertising campaigns.
Abundance is the key word that drives the marketing strategy: Anchorage is a city where the days are longer and the nights are brighter, and the day-to-day is lived on a grand scale, according to the Big Wild Life website.
During this week’s brainstorming sessions, Norton asked people to come up with key words, like abundance, that represent Colorado Springs. The idea is that once a key word or phrase is identified, the strategies fall in under it.
Sam Eppley, vice president of the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership and owner of Sparrow Hawk Cookware downtown, said Colorado Springs means “coming home.”
“Everyone is from somewhere else but they choose to be here,” he said during the brainstorming session. “Somehow, this is home.”
Others felt the word “limitless” describes the opportunities for education, career, family and outdoor recreation.
“We are in the top 10 in so many categories,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO of ELOPE, Inc. “What other city can compare?”
In the coming months, Stone Mantel will present three brand strategies to the taskforce and then begin to work on the brand slogan or tagline. The task force includes the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Springs Sports Corp., El Pomar Foundation and Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs.
The goal is to have the branding process complete this year so that the city, region and individual organizations can incorporate the branding into the 2012 advertising marketing and public relation efforts.
In the past, there have been efforts to come up with a city slogan or brand, Price said. But, the efforts may have left people out or gave the impression that the efforts were done in a board room. He said this branding effort has included interviews with residents from all income levels, all sides of town, all professions and all ages.
He’s hoping that translates into ownership, he said.
“I would like to see the businesses in the community adopt the brand into their messaging,” Price said. “I would say to the USOC and the Space Foundation, help us tell the story.”