5 Essentials of City Branding


Every time we tackle a branding project I learn something new.
Each brand is different, as is every community, but there are a few commonalities that hold true for every time:

Process matters

Yes. It’s a process. It’s so tempting to simply pay a few thousand dollars to a talented graphic designer and ask them to produce a logo. But involvement from stakeholders, leadership, staff, and community members is critical to success. I know it’s hard to allocate time and resource to “process” but, if done right, engaging your community throughout the project will create buy-in along the way, and ultimately save you money.


One size does not fit all

That process we just talked about...it needs to be custom fit for you and your community. Be wary of consultants who come in with predetermined outcomes and cookie-cutter solutions. A successful brand comes from authentically listening to your community, distilling their feedback, and representing their perspectives.


The community cares

You will be utterly surprised by how many people come out of hiding to weigh in on your brand. You may not be able to get people to attend an open house about your comprehensive plan, but try to change a logo and you’ll undoubtedly grab their attention. Remember, caring is a good thing. Use the feedback and energy to influence the final product.


A brand alone is not enough

You did it! You have new logo, new colors, key messages. Congrats. Now, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to bring that brand to life? Plan ahead to phase two of your rebrand and think through the logistics of both organizational rebranding (logo replacement, staff training, brand resources) as well as perception rebranding (economic development marketing, community pride campaigns, tourism promotion, etc.) Brand Guidelines that are never used are a waste of money.

It’s okay to ask for help

Rebranding is a big deal! Many cities choose to hire outside firms to help, some tackle it with in-house staff. Either way, spend some time talking with those who have been through this before to understand the benefits and the challenges. Identify the areas where you’ll need the most help and seek out staff or contractors to support you.