"Branding" Process Steadily Gaining Support as Economic Development Tool
Bay County Realtor Association Among Groups Backing Creation of Identity
March 26, 2004
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By: Dave Rogers
What will be the benefit to groups in the community that support the concept of creating a Bay Area "brand?"
"The brand is an emotional and intellectual connection between the community and its customers," says Shirley Roberts, executive director of the Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, who is spearheading the branding effort.
"The Bay Area needs a brand because we have no identity in the marketplace," says Roberts.
Branding was driven to the fore in the minds of community leaders who read a report from Brogan & Partners stating that many industrial leaders across the state have little or no image of Bay County. "Without a strong identity, the Bay Area could be just about any other community, anywhere on earth," states a steering committee publication. "And in the minds of our customers . . . we are."
In the case of the Bay Area initiative, the process will begin with extensive research designed at getting into the heads and hearts ofour customers, specifically potential new businesses, residents and visitors, says Roberts.
Like almost every other community in the country, the Bay Area seeks tourism, economic development, new residents and dollars flowing into existingbusinesses.
Hotel/motel revenues, home sales, restaurant and bar patronage, retail traffic, even church collections -- all depend on the number of people attracted to a community.
Recognizing this fact, the Bay County Realtor Association stepped up early with a $1,500 contribution to the $51,000 budget for the first phase of the branding process. About half the total needed has already been raised, says Roberts, but the campaign needs to be completed so a consultant can be selected from among proposals received earlier this month.
The Steering Committee for branding now includes the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Bay City Downtown Management Board, City of Bay City, Bay County, Bay County Realtor Association, Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, AFL-CIO Labor Council of Bay County, Bay Arts Council, Bay County UAW CAP Council and Dow Corning Corporation.
The team forming to guide the branding is one of the keys to the dynamics of the process, according to Mike Seward, president of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. "There is a recognition that we're all in this together, that we all have value and that we all need to be singing the same tune in order to make a difference," said Seward, punctuating his comments: "We all want the same three things: Jobs, jobs, jobs."
The initial phase involves working with a consultant to define the area's position and brand, according to Patti Stowell, marketing manager of the City of Bay City. "The real work, and long-term commitment, will be implementing our new brand in marketing and promotional materials across our community."
"We recognize that the lack of a clear identity is a huge challenge in terms of economic growth for our community," says Bob Adamowski, CEO of the Realtor Association, adding: "We like the approach of including many groups in the community and the goal of creating economic benefits across all sectors of our economy. If the community grows, we benefit."
A fundraising deadline has been set for April 15, followed by a contract with a consultant for the process that will take six to nine months.
The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a 505 (c) 3 charitable organization, will receive and pass on any contributions to support the branding initiative. Contact Shirley Roberts, Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, 893-1222.
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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