Clean-cut branding is key to success
Significant economic change takes time, and public perception of this activity invariably follows at an even slower pace. It is therefore critical for those individuals and organizations working within the economic development industry to give sufficient care and attention to building and maintaining a positive reputation for their communities. If this is done well, it will provide a solid foundation on which sustainable success can be built. If it is done poorly or neglected completely, the damage can be irrevocable.
For economic development professionals specifically a positive community reputation will help maintain good relationships with existing companies and facilitate expansion by attracting new company and foreign capital; and a strong brand is an essential stepping stone towards an excellent reputation.
An industry focussed on data
It is probably fair to say that even before the most recent financial crisis, the economic development profession in general did not enjoy an especially warm or friendly reputation. This is despite the fact that the mission is based on improvement and making the world a better place. The services they provide are typically perceived as important, but few people would describe them as especially fun or exciting, however much fun or exciting they might actually be.
In fact for the average person on the street, the industry as a whole, which communicates primarily through facts and figures rather than human stories, can appear obtuse, confusing and even a little intimidating. In such an industry branding and visual identity has become increasingly important as communities, regions and states do what they can to stand out from the crowd and present a different sort of image. An image that ensures they are perceived positively in an increasingly competitive environment.
They say that first impressions count and when it comes to businesses and organizations, that first impression is more often than not defined by branding and visual identity. Brand promises, logos and strap-lines, as well as associated colors and images, all combine to create a general impression that with a single glance communicates to an audience at both a conscious and subliminal level.
This has become increasingly so as the first contact many people have with a firm today rarely happens in a face-to-face meeting. Instead, it tends to happen online. Online marketing has had a huge impact on every kind of industry and it is vital for economic development professionals to seriously consider how they engage with company executives through various online media if they wish their community to stay relevant and competitive.
The biggest challenge here comes from the fact that you are not going to be there to influence the situation when a potential capital investor perceives your community for the first time. As a result, you are reliant on a strong brand to make that first impression for you, and building a strong digital presence is a great step towards this. Working with a specialist design and development agency such as Worry Free Labs can help ensure it is a good one.
What does your branding say about you?
With all this in mind, it is important to regularly revisit and explore your brand and think about what your community’s visual identity is saying to company executives and other stakeholders, both potential and existing, when you are not there.
Try the following exercises
- Cast your mind back and ask yourself, what was the first thing you thought when you first saw your community’s branding?
- Put yourself in the shoes of your biggest competitor, then a CEO doing business in your community, then a prospective capital investor, and each time ask yourself what the visual identity is saying to them. Would they find it attractive?
- Quickly and without thinking too hard about it, come up with five words that come to mind when you look at your community’s branding.
- If you took any wording away, would people still know what your community stood for? This is perhaps the most important element consideration of any visual identity. It also happens to arguably be the hardest one to get right.
The right identity for your community
In a sense there is no such thing as a ‘good’ brand. It needs to be attractive, recognizable and memorable, but what really defines it as a success is how well it represents you and your firm. The right visual identity for one community will be entirely different to another.
For economic development professionals, a community brand mark should be exact and clean cut, as this suggests precision, attention to detail and reliability. Specialist support like that provided by Worry Free Labs in this area is crucial, as the best branding does not happen by accident.