Friday, August 04, 2006

If You Don’t Brand Yourself, Someone Else Will

“Frankenmuth is the Christmas Capital of the World, Traverse City is the Cherry Capital, Battle Creek is the Cereal City and Oakland County is Automation Alley,” was how the Jackson Citizen Patriot started out an article about the branding of Jackson, MI (population 36,316). I was there a year ago and challenged them that unless they branded themselves, someone else would brand you. And, you might not like what that is.

In the case of Jackson, unfortunately, their prisons are their most famous identifier, not necessarily what you want to be known as. Jackson had impressed me with their downtown area, burgeoning arts initiatives and expansive parks. But, they were still known for their prisons.

The idea of branding Jackson as something else was confirmed for them when a delegation from the town visited Jackson’s sister city, Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, this spring. Carrickfergus launched a branding campaign a few years ago because it didn’t like being lumped in with its nearby neighbor, Belfast. The city made an old castle its brand, and it uses that image on everything it puts out. Both the self-image of the local residents as well as that of outsiders is markedly different.

I’m glad that I got the ball started on the rebranding of Jackson. It’s a subject I’ll want to return to in the future to see the results.

Do you have a brand? If not, what do you think your neighboring towns have already branded you?


Anonymous said...

A couple flew into our airport last week. I picked them up at the airport. One of my first questions was , "where's home for your folks?" "Jackson" was their reply. The next question was ,"what is Jackson known for", and they replied, "we have the largest unwalled prison in the nation." I mentioned your book, branding and some earlier comments you had made about Jackson and branding. We're not there on branding yet, but agree with the idea 100%
/ Evart \
/ Springs \
/ Strings \
/ & Things \

Roger Elkins, Evart City Manager
"Home of the Dulcimer Funfest"

BoomtownUSA said...

Roger: Thanks for sharing that experience. Jackson is really a wonderful place, with a great parks system, a dynamic downtown, a growing arts communtiy and other attributes. Unfortunately, the prision is what everyone knows them by. I hope that they are able to create a new brand for themselves.