consultant Brooks says
Madison has traditional lifestyles
unveils suggested brand
with tips for merchant community
(January 2009) When you think of pickup trucks,
you may think Ford. When you think of peanut butter, you may think JIF.
When you think of toilet paper, you may think Charmin.
by Cristina Evans
consultant Roger Brooks
suggested the city "do whatever is
necessary" to help relocate the
Broadway Service Station elsewhere
and use the corner of Broadway and
Main streets for an open air farmers
market and gathering plaza for
live music and events.
So when you think of small town America, do you think
Branding is an effort to create an indelible image that others have
of you when they hear your name. The idea of branding a city has become
a growing trend across the country in recent years as these cities and
small towns compete for tourists who increasingly want more value for
their money and time.
Madison has joined the fray, hiring Seattle tourism consultant Roger
Brooks for $50,000 to develop a brand for the small, southern Indiana
town. Brooks and assistant Monica Dixon made their much-heralded arrival
in mid-December to research the downtown merchant community, Main Street,
local tourism attractions and hospitality. But when the duo made their
final brand recommendations to the community during a three-hour Powerpoint
presentation at the Brown Gym, only 40 people showed up. Among those
were only four merchants owners of Madison Mercantile, Whimsy,
Antiquity Furniture Restoration, and The Attic Coffee Mill Cafe
and two hoteliers.
The weak turnout for what had been hailed as the best solution to spurring
economic vitality to the downtown shopping district was seen as distressing
to Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong, who sat through the entire presentation.
I am hopeful that this branding process will become an important
step in giving us what we need to compete in the market, both regionally
and nationally, Armstrong said. The investment is substantial,
but we believe it is that important to help keep our downtown viable.
Branding is the art of differentiation.
Brands are specific.
Brands are built on product, not marketing. They must deliver
on the promise.
Brands are earned; they are never rolled out.
Brands must be experiential; they are based on activity,
not things to look at.
Logos and slogans are not brands; they are the marketing
messages used to support the brand.
Politics is the killer of any branding effort (and not necessarily
politics by governmental agencies, but by the myriad of local organizations
bickering with one another).
Source: Roger Brooks, Destination Development Inc.
Brooks presented the results of his teams three-day
mission to take the pulse of the communitys tourism and retail
marketing base. He declared Madisons brand to be Americas
Traditional Lifestyle. The basis for this brand is to promote
Madisons traditional American hometown appeal. Brooks referenced
such businesses as Rogers Corner and the Ohio Theatre as representative
of this brand. But it is more than old-fashioned values of yesteryear.
He says the real brand are the shopping experiences of visitors to what
he calls Madisons anchor stores. These anchors are
one-of-a-kind quaint shops that provide originality and value.
In the end, however, Brooks placed the make-or-break burden on the merchants
themselves for whether his recommendations will succeed or fail. For
branding is about profit, not logos and slogans and signs and banners.
Its about bringing in dollars, he said.
The biggest problem of all in Madison is the attitude of local
merchants, Brooks said. This attitude is dangerously close
to killing the downtown. Its a self-fulfilling prophecy, that
if you think you are going to go out business, then sooner or later
We are about to build your brand around your businesses, but if
the merchants dont buy into this, then we are just wasting our
time, he told the crowd.
He urged the merchants to adopt the mall mentality, which is essentially
a formula for establishing consistent hours and days of operation, staying
open late, and grouping similar types of businesses together.
In 25 years in this business and working in 740 towns, I have
never seen a town with such a mish-mash of hours when stores are open,
Dubbing them hobby businesses, Brooks said this sort of
inconsistency is the biggest danger for Madison.
Brooks said tourism is the nations fastest growing
industry in the United States and in every state. Citing statistics
on tourism income, Brooks said Jefferson County is earning only a small
share of Indianas $9 billion a year in tourism spending. The state
ranks as the fifth most popular to visit among tourists.
Indianapolis alone accounts for $3.6 billion, with the rest of the state
making up $4.5 billion. There are 67 counties and most of them
have nothing (for tourists). Your tourism spending is $50 million a
year when it should be $200 million, he said.
He cited Fredericksburg, Texas, a town of 12,000 population, same as
Madisons, as earning $210 million a year, and it is located 3.5
hours from Dallas. The reason is, they have done such a good job
with their downtown shopping district.
Brooks said Madison earns most of its tourism revenue over nine event
days a year during its annual festivals. What about the
other 355 days? he asked. That leaves 732 visitors a day,
and the majority of them come here on Saturdays.
Brooks said Madisons goal should be to extend the days of the
week that visitors come and to extend their length of stay. Overnight
visitors spend three times more than day visitors, he reminded
Brooks second major point focused on store hours. He cited statistics
showing that visitors spend three times more money after 6 p.m. Are
your shops open that late? he asked rhetorically.
Brooks told of his experience of walking down Main Street at 2 p.m.
Wednesday only to find six stores closed or vacant, 15 existing businesses
closed, and several closed when the sign on the door said they were
supposed to be open.
Perhaps Brooks third major point was not about tourism
at all, but rather, local residents. He said the downtown needs to develop
a central location for locals to hang out. He cited the farmers
market or open air market or plaza where live music can be performed
and people can sit down to eat at outdoor tables.
Get the locals to come downtown to shop and hang out, then the
tourists will follow. Because if your locals wont hang out in
downtown Madison, neither will visitors. Thats why you start out
with the residents.
To further illustrate his point, he cited Steves Broadway Service
Station at the corner of Main and Broadway streets as being an excellent
location for the farmers market and plaza. I would get the
city leaders together and do whatever is necessary to relocate that
business elsewhere. Its just in the wrong place. He said
the view from the citys showpiece, the Broadway Fountain, down
toward the Ohio River is blocked by the sight of U-Hauls parked along
Broadway. Steves Broadway Service Station rents those trucks to
other recommendations were:
Extend the length of the downtown shopping district to extend
from Walnut Street, a block east of the Jefferson County Courthouse,
and west to Cragmont Street. He suggested this stretch of Main Street
be dubbed The Madison Mile and marketed as such. When
entering The Madison Mile, people should be transported
into another era. Create a gateway to give visitors a sense that they
have arrived. I would like to see decorative streetlights running all
the way down to the Red Pepper Deli.
Ý Brooks said he had heard of an effort to promote retirement communities
as a way of attracting new residents to Madison. Retirement communities
are fine, but dont make it your focus. The target market
should include aging Baby Boomers, now in their 40s, and younger people
who would want to hang out where there is activity, such as live music.
He strongly recommended that a soup kitchen not be established
inside the vacant building at 602 W. Main St. A plan was recently announced
by a local church group to establish one there. Brooks said that is
not an image you want in the heart of your downtown shopping district.
He suggested it could be put in the back of the building or elsewhere.
Brooks suggested the new benches recently placed along Main
Street be repositioned against the walls of the buildings facing out
toward the street so those sitting can watch people walking by. He also
said the bench design does not fit the architecture of the town.
Brooks said the Good Samaritan Church is in the wrong place.
The enormous structure towers over the 100 block of East Main Street
and in its heydey was a three-story department store.
Brooks said local politics and bickering among the 60-some local
merchant, civic and governmental groups in Madison could be the overriding
obstacle for the branding initiative to work. Members of these groups
must pull together and move in the same direction.
Reaction to Brooks presentation was mixed. Linda
Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors
Bureau, described the presentation to her board at its December meeting,
since only two of the nine board members attended Brooks session.
She said the various local government and nonprofit agencies that pooled
their funds to pay for Brooks services seemed to be satisfied
that they got their moneys worth when they met with him at our
wrap-up meeting. And I was pleased with what they told us.
Lytle continued, Everything they said for us to do is do-able,
and he has assured us that he will do whatever it takes to guide us
through it. He wants to see us succeed.
Lytle added that Brooks and Dixon were wanting to discuss marketing
ideas to implement the brand, but they were not paid to do the marketing.
That would have cost another $25,000. The local partners have not yet
decided who will do the marketing of the new brand or how it will be
Madison Bicentennial Committee Chairwoman Jan Vetrhus said the recommended
brand fits nicely with the Bicentennial theme because we want
people to come home; its Americas hometown. She said
she didnt understand why developers are building fake downtowns
when we have a real one right here. But there is something to
be said for consistent hours and access to parking. She also said
store hours on weekends is important for those local residents who work
out of town during the week.
Judy George, who owns The Attic Coffee Mill Cafe, said she was impressed
with Brooks assessment and recommendations. I think what
hes saying is all the truth, and we need get behind him and make
this work. We think it is do-able; we just need to get more merchants
involved, and I think there are many who will.
George was especially happy to hear Brooks suggest that Madison should
market the west end of Main Street all the way to Cragmont Street, since
her coffee shop is located in that area of town. She was disappointed
when the recent Christmas Parade stopped at Broadway Street.
Gerry Reilly, president of the Madison Main Street Program board, said
he likes the brand that was presented, adding, I think we can
come with traditional things that can fit in with that theme. A lot
of the things he said, I agree with, Im think the challenge will
be getting other merchants to go along with it, but I think its
worth a try.
Brooks and Dixon are scheduled to return to Madison on Feb. 9-10 to
present their final brand for the city. At that time, they will announce
their short list of anchor stores around which they believe
the brand should be built. They also want to build a Brand Leadership
Team to implement the plan. They also want to hold a free workshop
to help train local merchants.
Brooks visit was funded by the city and contributions from several
local agencies, dubbed the partners. These include the city
of Madison, Madison Main Street Program, Madison Area Convention and
Visitors Bureau, Jefferson County Board of Tourism, Economic Development
Partners of Jefferson County, Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, Community
Foundation of Jefferson County, Historic Madison Inc., and the Lanier
Mansion State Historic Site. But when Brooks and Dixon return to Madison
in February, they have asked that at least seven local merchants be
added to the partners group, said Lytle.
They want the merchants to be involved, she said. In
the end, its all about the merchants.
For more information about Roger Brooks and
his tourism formula for success, visit his companys website: www.DestinationDevelopment.com.
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