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Case Study #4: Can you “brand” a city? Yes!

In 1990, the population of Conway, Arkansas was 26,600. Fifteen years later, in 2005, the small town had doubled in size to become the seventh largest city in the state. Located about one-half hour Northwest of Little Rock, Conway boasts three institutions of higher education, a low unemployment rate, reasonably priced housing and a diverse population of students, young families, baby boomers, and retirees. Faulkner County, where Conway is situated, is the fastest growing county in the state of Arkansas.

The Challenge: As is the case in any organization experiencing rapid growth, it’s helpful to keep all the key players in communication and, ideally, on the same page in terms of vision, direction and desired outcomes. In the case of Conway, the key players represented several semi-related organizations: the City of Conway, the Chamber of Commerce, Conway Development Corporation, the Downtown Partnership and the Advertising & Promotion Commission whose focus is on increasing tourism in the area.

Jan Spann was serving as interim Chamber president when it became clear that the A&P Commission could benefit from having a local expert support them in crafting an image consistent with Conway, one that would help them promote the area. Around this same time, the city had jumped beyond the 50,000 mark in population. “We were at a crossroads,” says Spann. “We just can’t be ‘okay,” we have to be better. But who are we?” Spann was instrumental in bringing Enlightened Marketing in to work with all of the entities involved in providing services for the community and launch a process that became known as “Brand Conway.”

The Process: “When the process started,” says Brad Lacy, CEO of both the Chamber of Commerce and Conway Development Corporation, “it was more a branding exercise for the A&P Commission, for tourism in the community. But we saw it as a good way of getting all of our partner organizations together. It became a way to collect everyone’s thoughts as to what makes Conway unique.”

Over a period of several months, we worked with stakeholders from each of the entities involved, facilitated focus groups, conducted surveys at a local festival and on college campuses and met with leaders from a variety of industries and organizations in the community. The goal was to find out what not only community leaders, but also citizens and visitors, thought of Conway.

The Results: After gathering reams of information, we presented a report to the leaders of the partner organizations. We’d managed to get to the core, to the essence of what made Conway, well, Conway – what it was that gave the city its personality, atmosphere and lifestyle. We also created a vision statement that everyone involved agreed upon as being one that would guide Conway into the future.

“Having a brand tells the outside world what we think about ourselves,” says Conway Mayor Tab Townsell. “The other benefit is that it tells us. It’s our touchstone, our internal benchmark,” he adds. “You can’t be all things to all people. Be what you are best at. Branding allows us to measure how well we are aligning with who we say we are.”

“Samantha kept everybody focused on the process and that can be difficult with a big group of people,” says Lacy. “Now we’ve moved forward and contracted with an agency to create our tagline and logo.” Each of the community’s partner organizations will actually have their own logo, all of them having a common look and feel.

Mayor Townsell is looking forward to rolling out the new Conway brand in the community, to visitors, and to the city’s sizable staff. “I think when we start putting the new logo on uniforms it will give employees a sense of pride, a self-actualization that goes beyond pay,” he says. Townsell also appreciates how the process got all of the community’s partner organizations organized around a shared vision. “Each group has its hand on their own rudder, but we’re all looking at the same map,” he says.

Spann, now retired from her active role in community service, couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of Brand Conway. “We were able to achieve cohesiveness among all these different factions,” says Spann. “Samantha is a treasure for us to have in Conway. She wants us to see our full potential.”

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