So there has been a series of interesting articles and blog entries about the metro area cities attempts to market themselves. The Pioneer Press came out with a piece on cities in the metropolitan area attempts to brand themselves usually with all the flare and charisma that one could expect when you have the office intern, or your very talented high school age son or daughter execute your city’s marketing plan, except many of these cities paid good money to ad agencies to come up with city slogans and branding like “A ‘Small Town’ City” (Mahtomedi) the mouth full that North Saint Paul uses, “a small-town atmosphere in a large metropolitan area”. They talk about the old stale standards that cities aways fall back on when coming up with these things; bodies of water, community, geographic gateways and history are usually popular.

In case if your wondering what Richfield’s slogan is, it is “Your urban home town in the heart of the Twin Cities.” A slogan I certainly would not confused at least with, say, Moorhead, Minnesota.

I have been harping on city officials at meetings on the need for marketing and developing Richfield’s brand. Unfortunately Richfield’s brand at present is more like “Laurence Welk Village” and less like “Johnny Carismaville.”

Unfortunately what most cities fail to understand, including Richfield, is that brand is more than just a catchy slogan. It is an essence. Imagine going into a Starbucks and finding it looking instead like a White Castle. A brand is a promise, an expectation on want to expect. If employees are rude at Starbucks that effects their brand. If the restrooms are dirty that effects their brand because it effects the customers experience.

Most cities create a bad slogan and leave it at that when thinking of brand, and some might push their brand identity as far as people’s impressions of their school system or even street scapes, but most go no further than that.

Most corporations are very concerned about brand control. To most cities, brand is a by-product something to react to.

The blog “twin cities sidewalks” whose post on the subject inspired my post, paraphrases Louis Mumford and American historian known for his studies and writings on cities, I will quote him here

Creating memorable places is really the key to attracting people and business to your area. Cultivating streetcorners and sidewalks worth walking on, emphasizing historical landmarks like a watertower, old church, library or city hall, and trying to get people to come together physically in the same spaces at the same times are all ways to really brand suburban cities, and to replace empty spaces with memorable places.

Brand for a city is more than just one element. It is about creating an experience. Looking at the city holistically.

Is Richfield’s brand really perceived by most people that we want to locate here as: “Your urban home town in the heart of the Twin Cities” or is it perceived more like my friend puts it as: “God’s Waiting Room”?

Personally I think our brand Slogan should be more like: “As Sexy as South Minneapolis, only with big backyards.”