Does a community’s brand matter?
Consider this. A local medical practice recently tried to recruit a dermatologist. After an extensive search, they offered the job to a young, out-of-state doctor — who couldn’t convince his wife to move to Sacramento. “I’m not moving there,” she told him. “It’s boring.” The search started over.
Brand matters. International place-branding expert Simon Anholt wrote that, “Unless you’ve lived in a particular city or have a good reason to know a lot about it, the chances are that you think about it in terms of a handful of qualities or attributes, a promise, some kind of story. That simple brand narrative can have a major impact on your decision to visit the city, to buy its products or services, to do business there or even to relocate there.”
So what is our story, the story of Sacramento? Anecdotal evidence and market research suggest that, whatever it is, it isn’t very inspiring. Enter the Brandathons.
Amazing things happen when hundreds of people get together to talk about something they love. Such was the case at each of the Sacramento regional Brandathon activities, which began in November and will continue through spring. The passion is evident when business leaders, elected officials, students, nonprofit executives and marketing experts (we call them Brandoulas) from around Northern California gather to describe what they love about the place we call home and plan creative ways to tell our region’s story.
The Brandathon effort is volunteer driven, with engagement from virtually all segments of the community. It’s founding principle of inclusivity is based on lessons learned during last year’s Metro Chamber study mission to Philadelphia, where leaders extolled the virtue of programs and ideas “supported by all, owned by none.” That’s what’s going on here. And as I said, it is pretty amazing.
The Sacramento Region Branding Initiative was launched to meet one of the goals of Next Economy, an effort inspired by the Sacramento Metro Chamber, the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization,
Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance and Valley Vision. These four nonprofit organizations began collaborating in 2011 to build a regional economic development plan that would lead to more jobs and more investment.
All things being equal, a location’s economic vitality depends in part on its image –– its brand, if you will. No matter how much the locals love an area, if their view isn’t shared by prospective businesses, potential employees, visitors and investors, economic growth will be hindered.
This region doesn’t lack marketing campaigns. We have plenty, with great slogans like: “Farm-to-Fork Capital” and“California Begins Here.”
Each slogan represents wonderful assets, and the Sacramento Region Branding Initiative supports promoting them within the context of the bigger picture. But none of them tells the whole story of greater Sacramento, a story that will resonate with media, travel writers, home buyers, tourists, business executives and investors.
The American Marketing Association says, “Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence and some that you cannot.”
Here’s to influencing what we can.
If you’d like to join the branding movement, please visit sacbrandathon.com.
Morton’s The Steakhouse. Special reservation. Best seat in the house. And a bottle of wine ingloriously named “The Prisoner.” It was a first date, and I may have overdone it trying to impress the woman who would later become my wife.
In October of last year, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson declared Sacramento the “Farm-to-Fork Capital of America,” presenting the city with a long-term opportunity to build a distinct brand identity that could help the region attract and retain citizens, conventions, tourists and entrepreneurs. It’s especially valuable because a strong regional identity gives energy to the economic engines that make cities successful. Anyone needing proof can look directly to Austin, Texas.