At Procter & Gamble we used to estimate that it costs $100 million to build a successful brand. We knew that because we had a proven formula:
- Create a product and clearly define the attributes that make it unique;
- Buy our way into retail chains to confirm shelf space and distribution;
- Competitively price the product versus the competition; and
- Build advertising campaigns that target parents with kids.
Through this formula, P&G would achieve what it called a competitive position at the point of sale, which means that if the consumer was standing in front of the shelf deciding between Tide and Sunlight, they would choose Tide over 62% of the time.
Branding a city is a bit different. Here is the traditional formula:
- Get approval from council to undertake a branding exercise;
- Spend a year doing market research on what the world thinks of your brand;
- Pay a company in New York $500,000 to come up with a logo and tag line; and
- Piss everyone off with the result.
Through this traditional formula, cities would achieve what is called a colossal mess at the point of indecision, which means that there is no buy-in, no moving forward and no money left over for marketing. And if the citizens are standing in front of their friends trying to answer “Why Edmonton?” they would fail to answer anything over 62% of the time.
Edmonton needs a new formula.
Many cities have gone down this traditional path which has typically ended in disappointment – Edmonton has had its share of these as well. So a new formula is needed. Mid-sized cities like Austin TX, Raleigh-Durham NC, Ann Arbour MI and Brooklyn NY have created new formulas – transforming their images and reputations from the inside out, not with traditional branding campaigns but with an authentic story that inspires community action and leadership. And when a city gets it right, it can be worth billions.
MakeSomethingEdmonton was launched to bring Edmontonians together towards the common goal of defining “Why Edmonton?” Why live here? Why work here? Why visit here? Why go to school here? But more importantly … Why are we unique? Why is an Edmonton experience different, special, memorable, remarkable? It uncovered those brand attributes that we can all believe in … see ourselves in … and will soon make them into a “public good” available to anyone and everyone. A great start to a new formula.
But we’ve just started. MakeSomethingEdmonton hit over the first pin of a 10-pin game. They started with the civicly-engaged, twitter-connected 104th street crowd … the first pin. Hitting that pin has allowed them to knock over the next two pins – students/post-secondary campuses and entrepreneurs – which collectively make up about 6% of the population. The next three pins, however, are most important – the immigrant communities, the seasoned builders of our city, and the major employers. And that is where critical mass will be formed, and when we really start to get busy.
See, we don’t have $100 million for a campaign. And there is no shelf space and no distribution system.
In his book Competitive Identity, Simon Anholt suggests, “99 times out of 100, when there is something wrong with the way the world perceives a place, it is because there is something wrong with the way the place perceives itself.”
Our image and reputation rests in the hearts and mouths of Edmontonians, and those people who interact with us. For us to be successful, we need to turn the 820,000 Edmontonians and the 35,000 Edmonton-based businesses into our marketing department … our distribution network … which means we need to arm them with the language and tools and stories that allow them to speak confidently about their City and to answer those questions of “Why?”
A city’s image is by far its most valuable asset and is perhaps the most significant determinant of its ability to attract business, people and investment. The new formula is designed to create a competitive position at the point of sale …
… when the high school graduate is choosing between two great universities, she picks the opportunity in Edmonton;
… when the military graduate is looking for a job and a new start to his career, he picks the opportunity in Edmonton;
… when the robotic manufacturing company is deciding between two places to locate, they select Edmonton;
… when the family of four from Regina is choosing where to go for the long weekend, they shout Edmonton;
… when an international sports committee is choosing between Edmonton and Quebec City, they award it to Edmonton.
This isn’t fluffy stuff. This is about winning, and it is about our economy. We’re all in this together … we are all part of the marketing department … and we can all Make Something Edmonton.