Rebranding Brooklyn Park?
By Andrew Richter
Yet another thing out of the twilight zone;
The Brooklyn Park Economic Development Authority took a tepid step toward hiring a branding consultant July 8. But several commissioners had open doubts about whether they wanted to do it. Commissioners authorized staff to draft a “request for qualifications” to seek proposals from branding consultants. However, the EDA would need to approve the language and scope of the request before staff could actually solicit proposals. Development and Housing Manager Kim Berggren told the EDA, which comprises the same members as the city council, that Brooklyn Park has tried many strategies to improve its image in the past. “One thing the city has never done … is try to do an intentional campaign that’s really just about targeting the misperceptions about Brooklyn Park, or really addressing our image,” Berggren said.
According to Berggren, the idea to launch a branding campaign stemmed from feedback the city has received from the community. Members of the business community involved in the city’s Business Forward Task Force recommended that Brooklyn Park develop a brand and create a campaign around it. “One of the key themes that’s coming forward (through Business Forward) is that the city doesn’t have the best image and that we need to improve what people know about Brooklyn Park, because there’s a lot of great things to share about this community,” Berggren said. “They’re talking about how it does impede ability to do business here.” Residents and realtors have made similar comments, Berggren said. The city council discussed the possibility of a branding campaign in March, and directed staff to gather more details and bring the idea back for further consideration.
What does it say about a city when you’re considering spending the taxpayers hard earned money on a propaganda campaign?
At the July 8 EDA meeting, Berggren told the council that an effective campaign would probably cost at least $200,000. That includes approximately $100,000 for a consultant to develop the plan and $100,000 for implementation. Anything beyond that would be at the EDA’s discretion. The EDA also heard a presentation from Earl Herzog, a University of Minnesota professor who worked in the marketing industry for 40 years. “I’m here to tell you (the Brooklyn Parks brand) already exists,” Herzog said. “The brand is continuing to evolve in a complex environment. … The question should be, ‘Can we start to manage the Brooklyn Park brand to get more positive perceptions?”
Yes that’s $200,000!!!!!
According to Herzog, a branding campaign includes four basic steps:
• Develop a brand positioning statement that leads to a brand promise.
• Determine what messages will be effective for the target audiences.
• Choose the tactics for communicating those messages.
• Continue measuring results and making adjustments as needed.
The first stage is the most critical, in Herzog’s estimation. “If you’re going to move forward, I strongly recommend you get this stage right,” he said. Herzog also encouraged the city to create a branding campaign, noting that he believes more cities will do so in the future. “I do think you’re going to do this sometime in the future,” he said. “And I think it’ll get you much farther ahead if you start now.”
Only EDA President Jeffrey Lunde seemed convinced that a branding campaign was the right action. “It’s an opportunity to guide the future,” Lunde said. “I told someone today I’d rather go big or go home. … I think, as EDA members, this is the right thing to do for bringing development here. People talk about running a city like a business – this is what a business would do.”
How about we do this instead of light rail?
Commissioner Rich Gates, on the other hand, staunchly opposed the idea. “This is too much money,” he said. “I think we have fixes we can do within our own city structure first.” Gates said the city wastes money on things such as the “Brooklyn Park Now!” TV show and could improve communications from all departments. Other commissioners seemed less certain. Commissioner Mike Trepanier admitted he was having a difficult time with the decision. Although he didn’t seem opposed to the concept of a branding campaign, he also said he believes that if the city has quality neighborhoods and people who are safe and feel safe, “the rest will take care of itself.” Trepanier was also nervous about committing a significant amount of money to something like this at a time when government finance is changing.
Commissioners John Jordan and Bob Mata were concerned about the money as well. “This is a lot of money,” Jordan said. “And I know things like this cost a lot of money … but I’m struggling with the zeroes. … Going big I agree with, but it’s with taxpayers’ money and not my own.” Jordan also said he has been disappointed with the city’s efforts at communication in the past. He said spending the money on more cops instead of a branding campaign would probably have an equally positive effect on the city’s image. Similarly, Mata thought the city could spend less money on tangible benefits to residents and have a positive effect. “I think we need to create our brand just by doing what’s right for the citizens of the city and for the businesses,” he said.
Commissioner Elizabeth Knight didn’t seem opposed to the idea of a branding campaign but was concerned about the balance of money spent on branding versus addressing problems in the city. “We have to start addressing the issues in our community,” she said. “And it’s not fair to go to one end of the community and see some real poverty and struggling, and then go to the other end of the community and say we’re celebrating diversity, but yet we’ve got real societal issues going on.” The EDA voted 5-1 (Gates cast the nay vote) to authorize staff to draft a request for proposals and bring it to the EDA for consideration. Commissioner Peter Crema was absent. It’s unclear if the commission will actually want to seek proposals once staff has drafted the request.
We will stay on top of this……