How branding matters

STERLING – Last week, I reported that Sterling had begun its process of creating a brand.

At its latest City Council meeting, members heard a presentation from Hadley Skeffington-Vos, assistant to City Manager Scott Shumard.

During the presentation, Skeffington-Vos told the council a brand can help Sterling bring in new customers, residents or businesses.

Not all in the community appear to agree with the idea of developing a brand. One such reader commented on our website on the article.

"Re-branding is not going to draw people or businesses to Sterling! Business owners don't care if your city has a sharp letterhead and matching signs, ... they care about how responsibly a community spends its money and how low the fees and taxes are in the area," the comment read.

The reader raised some interesting questions. As Sterling continues the process of creating a brand, there are many questions that should be considered. As I thought about the story and follow-up comments posted online, I immediately was reminded of the message of last week's speaker as part of the second Sauk Valley Symposium.

In his book, "Boomtown USA: The 7 1/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns," author Jack Schultz lists building a city's brand as the seventh key to success.

Schultz writes that cities must consider what they hope a brand will accomplish. Does a city want a brand to serve as an incentive to economic developers? What kind of immediate association does a city hope its name creates?

Think about Galena. When many hear of the city, they immediately envision a picturesque town, known for its quaint downtown and numerous boutiques for shopping. Galena has worked to create this image. Many consider it a place to escape for a day of leisure.

What do Sterling leaders want people to think of when they hear the town's name? Why couldn't Sterling have a strong identity associated with its town?

Building a brand entails much more than simply putting a logo on letterhead and business cards. It involves selling a town for its strong points.

As Schultz writes in his book, residents in a town should always be speaking positively of its assets. If someone is visiting and asks: "What is there do to in town?" The answer should be: "There's plenty to do." Creating and building a brand is as much about consistency as it is about attitude.

"If you're located in the middle of nowhere, without a strong population base for hundreds of miles, you had better develop something that sets you apart from everyone else," Schultz wrote on page 101 of his book.

A positive attitude, combined with consistent, clear branding can distinguish a town that might otherwise simply be drive-by territory.

Sauk Valley Media reporter Kiran Sood covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. She can be reached at ksood@saukvalley.com or at 800-798-4085, ext. 529.

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