“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?