How do You Go About Branding and Marketing a City, County or State?

Hudson Ohio gazebo in the fall on the greenHow important is it that people know about your city, county or state?

Test yourself on your ability to name the 50 states here.

I think you’ll agree that the scores make it apparent which ones invest in branding and marketing their state.

When a city or economic area leaders decide they need to brand and market their city, town, county or state, critics often argue back with two threads: why does it cost so much… and why do we need someone outside to tell us who we are?

The costs to market vary widely — but most areas will agree hiring someone from the outside is more effective than trying to do it yourself. They have often tried to do it themselves without a lot of success.

Probably the best way is to hire a marketing firm that specializes in location marketing for cities, counties or specific areas. While that may seem too expensive, trying to do it from the inside, can result in lost opportunity dollars for many many years to come. When someone looks at his or her own area, it’s too easy to assume that people should just KNOW how great your area is and all the wonderful benefits it has to offer.

My hometown (population about 25,000) has hired a marketing company to help bring new business into town. The city council hired a firm that specializes in helping cities distinguish itself from surrounding towns and county, to help promote tourism, to help create jobs, and to help retain or increase home sales in Hudson Ohio. The three year program from Atlas Advertising from Denver CO will total over $250,000.

A town just north of Hilton Head, Port Royal South Carolina decided to hire a branding company with this RFP. They hired Rawle Murdy Associates for $40,000.

The nearby area, just a 10 minute drive away Port Royal, Main Street Beaufort is spending $12,000 collected from parking meters for their marketing plan.

And a little farther south, Miami Florida and Dade county are doing it for free “in house” with the help of the tourist and convention center’s staff.

Regardless of what is actually spent on the plan, there are usually several stages… discovery, gathering information, surveying people, creative - developing the positioning, creating a logo and tagline and all the supporting materials, and execution - distribution of the materials and getting all the stakeholders to actually use the branding in their marketing efforts.

Some companies will use steps like these:

1) Establishing core values through a marketing audit
2) Best-practices review
3) Work session meetings with residents and social media monitoring
4) Developing a brand identity
5) Action plan for marketing

Getting the community to embrace it after the work has been done and paid for is a crucial step.

Other area marketing plans:
Tour Chautauqua
Visit California - Find Yourself Here
Virginia - LOVE campaign. Virginia Tourism Authority 2012-2014 Strategic Plan
Teton County - Idaho

Have a good one? Please leave a link to it in the comments. Add the price that was paid as well if you know it.


3 thoughts on “How do You Go About Branding and Marketing a City, County or State?

  1. Hi Chris

    Thanks for the links - I’ll enjoy reading them!

    Just one note - the Miami/Dade County example isn’t free; I assume that they’ll be paying staff wages. This is one mistake that organisations of all sizes and sectors make - forgetting the value of their own employees!

    If you’ve not already come across Alan Williamson’s work, you may well enjoy that too.


  2. Neil:
    Good point. It’s never really free. There is the cost of other opportunities lost by using in house employees who could be working on something else.

    Thanks also for the link to Brandopia! I’ll check it out.

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