Brand conscious

Madison ‘Branding Project’
to take place in early December

Public input sought to define
image for city’s marketing plan

By Don Ward

(December 2008) – Selling Madison has never been hard, tourism officials say, once visitors have spent any time here. They usually leave wanting to come back.
But the myriad of reasons why people like the historic river town makes it difficult for tourism officials to wrap their fingers around a slogan that fits – and one that embraces all the town has to offer. To aid in that regard, a group of local “partners” have pooled their resources to hire Seattle-based consultant Roger Brooks of Destination Development Inc. to develop a marketing brand for Madison.

Monica Dixon

Monica Dixon

These partners, which includes local historic preservation, retail and economic development agencies, are spending $50,000 for Brooks and his staff to develop the brand. It will then be up to the partners to come up with even more money to develop a marketing campaign to advertise the city to repeat and prospective new visitors, plus attract new residents and businesses to move here.
Brook and his staff will spend a week in Madison, from Dec. 8-12, to gather input from loca residents, retailers and business owners, then present their “preferred” Branding Plan at a public meeting on the last night, Dec. 11. The week is designed to gather the ideas of anyone who wants to offer advice or opinions about what Madison’s brand should be.
“Participation by local residents and business owners is critical to the process,” said Monica Dixon, a team psychologist and facilitator with Destination Development who will help lead the weeklong charrette.
“We don’t like to be seen as these outside consultants who come into your town and tell you what to do. We want feedback and involvement from the community, so we have built in many feedback loops to accomplish that.”

Madison Branding Project
Meeting Schedule

• Tuesday, Dec. 9: 7-9:30 p.m. at Venture Out Business Center, 975 Industrial Dr. This meeting is to educate the public on community branding basics and solicit their input and vision for Madison.
• Wednesday, Dec. 10: 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Brooks’ temporary work studio at 601 W. Main St. This is an opportunity for community members to review ideas from the previous night’s meeting and provide additional information and feedback.
• Thursday, Dec. 11: 6-8 p.m. at the Brown Gym, 100 S. Broadway. Brand Direction Workshop to present the preferred Branding Plan to the community for feedback and review.
• Dec. 10-11: Additional time is available for community members to visit the branding studio at 601 W. Main St. from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to share ideas and review the progress.
• TBA in February 2009: Roger Brooks and his team return to Madison to present the final plan.
• Information: Call Linda Lytle at the Madison Area Convention and Tourism Bureau at (812) 265-2956 or Nancy Gruner, Madison Main Street Program, at (812) 701-9500.

Brooks’ team will set up shop for the week in a vacant storefront at 601 W. Main St. They will entertain visitors there to gather input. They also will hold three public meetings during the week: Dec. 9 at Venture Out Business Center; Dec. 10 at their storefront on Main Street; and Dec. 11 at the Brown Gym, where the final “preferred” Branding Plan will be unveiled to the public. A final Branding Plan will be presented by Brooks in February 2009 at a time and place yet to be announced.
Brooks himself will be in Madison the entire week. In recent years, he has become a foremost expert nationally in designing brands and marketing campaigns for more than 450 cities large and small, and for stylish resorts and ski lodges in the United States and Canada.
Brooks has many lists on his website – www.DestinationDevelopment.com – and among those describing a “brand,” he writes: “Brands are perceptions. Your community’s brand is what people think of you. It’s a perception. Logos, slogans and nice looking ads are NOT brands. They are just marketing messages used to support and promote the brand. Do we go to Disney
land because their slogan is “The Happiest Place on Earth”? No, we go to Disneyland because of what we know of it, our feelings and perceptions of the theme park. The slogan simply reinforces that feeling.”
The website is full of other information that would be helpful for those planning to take part in Madison’s branding initiative.
Brooks was a keynote speaker for two consecutive years at the Hoosier Hospitality Conference in Indianapolis, where he impressed Indiana tourism officials. As a result, the state paid half of the fee for six hand-picked Indiana towns to host Brooks this year to receive his assessment and recommendations. Brooks visited Madison last April and returned to assess Vevay the past fall. Brooks also has recently completed a brand development initiative in Chesterton, Ind., located on the shore of the Indiana Dunes State Park.

Roger Brooks

Roger Brooks

In April, Brooks’ weeklong assessment of Madison produced several recommendations. Among them were erecting improved directional signage on roadways both leading into town and in town; removing of temporary signs, banners and fliers; beautifying the entrance to city coming from the bridge; creating more welcoming signs for storefronts regarding hour of operation; expanding business hours; beautifying Main Street with flowers and cleaning up streetscapes; developing gathering places for street performers; creating better signage for public restrooms and attractions, such as Heritage Trail, Lanier Mansion and the Jefferson County Heritage Museum; and creating informational kiosks at the riverfront gazebo and Main Street Comfort Station.
Madison officials decided to hire Brooks to develop their brand after having heard from several other consulting firms who bid for the opportunity.
“We are hoping that whatever they come up with will help us promote our city to visitors and newcomers. And I think it is good to have someone from the outside to come here and see the town from a fresh perspective,” said Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong.
“We all know what we have, but we don’t know how that is being projected to the outside world.”
Gerry Reilly, president of the Madison Main Street Program, said: “I think it is important because the latest theory among marketing experts is that people identify with brands. But you want our brand to be legitimate and truly representative of the nature of our town. This is not only for tourism but also for economic development and to help attract people to move here or open a business here.”
Nancy Gruner, the Main Street Program’s executive director, added: “What is unique about this approach is that it will be a joint effort with lots of opportunity for public input. The average person can be a part of the process – their ideas are not only welcome but necessary for us to be successful.”
The partners who provided money for Madison’s branding initiative include the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, City of Madison, Jefferson County Commission, Economic Development Partners of Jefferson County, the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Community Foundation of Jefferson County. A state grant of $20,000 was provided through the Madison Main Street Program for the project. Other members of the group are Historic Madison Inc. and the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site.

• For more information on Roger Brooks and his philosophy on tourism, visit his website: www.DestinationDevelopment.com.

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