Michigan communities work on developing local “brands”

michigan1The concept of self-identity for communities in the state of Michigan has become a trend over recent years, partially due to the growth of the “Pure Michigan” campaign.

Some cities, like Alpena, are already engaged in the process. Others, like Mount Pleasant, are just beginning the process to answer the question “Who are we?”

Mount Pleasant city commissioners gave the go ahead in February to move forward with a community branding campaign.

Some of the stakeholders involved include Central Michigan University, Union Township, the Mt Pleasant Chamber of Commerce, and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

City officials wanted to be sure commissioners approved the idea of working with multiple groups in the development of a cohesive campaign.Heather Smith is communications director for the city of Mount Pleasant. “It’s really important for us to have one voice as a cohesive unit. We’re all marketing Mount Pleasant, we’re all marketing the same thing. They may be two different audiences, but it’s important we’re all using the same message and having one solid brand.”

Smith said it’s very important the Mount Pleasant community as a whole is involved and that their input and feedback is included as the process moves forward.

While the city’s campaign is still in the development stages, other cities across the state have already started seeing the advantage of having a community brand. Greg Sundin, City Manager for the City of Alpena, said Alpena began its branding process back in 2011. “A brand is not a logo, it’s not a symbol, it is an experience. And that’s what is so important that when people come they experience what your brand is and then want to return. That can be a tourist, that can be somebody to come actually live here, it could be a business which would want to relocate here. So it covers all spectrums of economic development, not just tourism.”

Sundin said Alpena has seen what he calls a significant increase in tourism in the last few years.

He said the branding process takes time and effort. “There were things that were said were needed in our community and we are working towards those. And some are coming close to fruition. Unfortunately they’re not at a stage where I can announce them, but we are moving in that direction and we see that as very positive.”