In my previous blog post “Why Branding is Important to Our Communities” I mentioned two important aspects of community branding: Why Brand your Community? and the Pitfalls of Community Branding. In this entry I will focus on the Brand Elements and How to Use Them, and How to Brand a Community using the example of Belize City.

Community branding is a great way to tell the story of a community or city, and can attract tourists while giving local a change to rediscover their city and all it has to offer.

Brand Elements and How to Use Them

  1. Typeface: a set of characters that share common design features
    1. This is perhaps the most essential yet most unused element in the community branding toolbox.
    2. Consider using a primary and one or two secondary typefaces.
    3. Carefully consider ornate and script typefaces as they are frequently hard to read, especially if used on signs and banners.
  1. Logo: a graphic mark used to quickly identify something
    1. A logo does not need to be literal. In fact, when looking at a logo, consider what community assets it is leaving on the table versus those it is incorporating. Communities with more figurative logos can often be imbued with more meaning. Corporations have long understood the power of a logo that evolves into an icon.
    2. The logo does not have to be instantly recognizable. Sometimes having to explain the logo gives stakeholders an opportunity to talk about the brand values of a place. Communities often feel the need to have something literal (a clock tower, a monument, or worse, a collage).
  1. Tagline: also known as a slogan
    1. Avoid clichés such as the “heart of” and “gateway to.” In fact, a gateway is very thing passed through on the way to the actual destination.
    2. A tagline without disposing of an old moniker. For example, Wenatchee, Washington, recently completed a brand campaign for the community. It was long known as the Apple Capital of the United States, and the tagline uses the phrase, “What will you pick today?” as a way to promote other assets in the community while still preserving the older reference.
  1. Color Palette: the color or colors that comprise the brand
    1. A community brand can have many different colors in its palette. Sometimes it is helpful to differentiate a main color palette and an accent color palette.
    2. If multiple colors are used in a primary brand, it should also be tested in a single color and in black and white for reproducibility since not all uses will be full color.

How to Brand a Community: Lessons from Belize City

Belize City has a population of over 57,000 and is the retail, business, and cultural center of the country. The city suffered from a marketing conundrum in that many visitor guides directed tourists to other locations eschewing Belize City’s attractions, and local residents, while very proud of their city, had no vehicle through which to express their sense of pride. Like many cities, Belize City is rich in assets and faces urban challenges. The task of branding this city that sits on a peninsula in the Caribbean would involve a series of focus group discussions with key stakeholders and neighborhood meetings in different parts of the city.

The resulting brand design took inspiration from several cues. The colors and typeface of the iconic BELIZE signs in two locations in the City served as an inspiration.

The logo used the colors to create a “palm tree” design that used six interlocking arcs that represent the many cultures that come together in the city. The “palm tree” can also be interpreted as a carnival hat, waves of water, light, or even patriotic uses when the color scheme is modified within the palette.

The tagline Savor the Flavor, Feel the Energy and the moniker “Mother of Belize” can be found in the brand statement that serves as a script for the brand – the paragraphs of which can be separated and used in a variety of marketing tools.

belize-city

Brand Statement

Our city is the Mother of Belize. We are the center of business, transportation, history, and trade. We warmly welcome you to the place we call home. We are the gateway to your experience of the splendor of our country.

Our city bustles with energy. We are busy streets and open parks. We are shops large and small. We are restaurants and cafes. We are small boats and giant ships. We are large festivals and patriotic events. We are a city of working people who are grounded in a complex history while looking to the future with vigor and optimism.

We are a place where the sweet Caribbean breeze cools us on warm days. We are a place where palm trees line our streets and neighborhoods remind us of the paradise that is life in the tropics. The azure sea surrounds this city and is both the source of extraordinary beauty and immense power.

We are one people – Creole, Mestizo, Garifuna, Maya, Mennonite, Chinese, East Indian and a mixture of these and many more.  You can hear English, Spanish and Kriol spoken in the streets. But above all, we are Belizean.  Our city gave birth to the name of our great country. Our culture is one of harmony and peace where family has a deep and profound meaning.

Taste the culture in our food – escabeche, dukunu, tamales, fry jacks, stew chicken, and of course rice and beans. Feel the rhythm of our dances – Brukdown, Baile de la Botella, Punta and many others.  Hear the music unique to the blend of people in our country. See the art, sculpture, and murals inspired by our setting.

We are a youthful City whose past remains present in buildings and traditions. We take pride in nurturing our children to seek better opportunities ahead. We face the future with a deep respect for our environment and our culture with the passion to make this City an extraordinary place.

We are Belize City: Savor the Flavor, Feel the Energy

In addition to the logos, tagline, and brand statement, the team developed a series of marketing collateral and ephemera to illustrate the potential of the brand. Belize City Council is currently working together with the private sector to launch the brand.

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Conclusion

As already mentioned, a brand is a promise a place makes with people. We as community development officials are responsible for the policies and ideas that build that promise. By incorporating branding and marketing, we are contemplating better ways to connect what we do with citizens who may not engage in a detailed process but will understand a succinct marketing message.

Incorporating a brand need not be a huge expense. In fact, a good branding system can be a way to add efficiency by eliminating duplicate efforts.

In the end, the branding exercise can be invigorating for the community itself, its elected leaders, and even the most jaded stakeholder by providing a fresh look at what a community is all about. When working in community and economic development, look hard at the image that the community you are working in projects – if it is unclear, cluttered, or simply unappealing – branding can be a way to create rapid positive impacts.

 

Tripp Muldrow, AICP, is president of Arnett Muldrow & Associates, Ltd., founded in 2002 in Greenville, South Carolina. A past president of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association, Tripp has conducted downtown master plans, neighborhood revitalization plans, and economic development strategies alongside extensive branding work in three hundred communities in forty three US States as well as in Canada and Belize.