Friday, June 22, 2012

RCGA Abandons Brand

The St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association (RCGA)announced that they will no longer utilize its developed brand for St. Louis -- "Perfectly Centered. Remarkably Connected." They will support the branding developed by the St. Louis Convention and Visitor's Commission -- "St. all within reach."

We do commend the RCGA for moving its branding support to the Convention and Visitor's Commission's brand identity. At least now we have one identity to market versus two.

Unfortunately, the region isn't using its full branding potential regardless of which tagline is used. Many times regional and municipal enterprises fall into a trap when they attempt to pursue "place branding". They attempt to define the identity by promoting the physical attributes of the area versus understanding that what truly differentiates a community is its people.

Smart enterprises understand that powerful brands are based on the shared values of the community. When a brand is developed properly, it engages both internal and external stakeholders in the shared values and provides everyone with "a reason to believe". It not only gains the interest of targeted marketing audiences, but provides a rallying cry that has full potential of making residents true brand fanatics.

Residential real estate provides a simple example. Talk to any real estate agent and you will be surprised at the number of homes that are sold that don't meet the buyer's physical house requirements. Buyers will have an extensive list of characteristics that include number of bedrooms, style of home, fenced-in backyard, etc. The agent will run the characteristics against the database and provide listings that most meet those requirements. The agent and buyers tour each house and check off the number of requirements that each house meets. Then, the buyers spot a home that meets none of the requirements and instantly fall in love with it and put in an offer.

Was the buyer's list of requirements wrong? Did the buyer's requirements change in the process?

The answer is that though the buyer was shopping for a "house", the buyer ended up purchasing a "home". They found an environment that resonated their personal values versus the physical requirements. It was actually a strong connection between home buyer and home owner and their shared values.

Strong enterprise branding works in the same way. It is more effective to brand the "people of the place" versus the actual place.

By following this simple brand strategy, we would have the ability to attract more people to call St. Louis -- home.