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City still working on its image

Burbank is looking to refresh the city’s image, but with the current economic climate, officials say the process will have to be gradual.

Some improvements have already been implemented — a redesigned and mobile city website and a public newsletter in utility bills. Others, such as an online network for city employees, on-demand video of city programs and an instant emergency notification system, are in the works.

All of the efforts are flowing down a path of rebranding the city, officials said.

Keith Sterling, who manages the city’s public information division, presented a new Communication Strategic Plan to the City Council last week, a document he has been working on since his arrival in 2009.


He is leading the effort to unify the image the city presents within and outside the community.

“Other cities need to establish who and what they are and how they can seem more progressive and relevant,” Sterling said. “Burbank does have identity and a built-in brand that gives it a leg up on other cities.”

Ira S. Kalb, an associate professor of clinical marketing at USC, says the basics of creating a brand is having a name, logo and a slogan.

“Santa Monica, for example, created a new logo that connotes the sun, sea and mountains, and you see it everywhere in the city,” Kalb said. “When you see it, it gives you that image that you are in Santa Monica.”


A refresh of the city logo has been discussed, but no solid plans have been made.

But all of it takes money, and given the current economic climate, Sterling said he wants to implement the plan slowly.

Just like with a business, Kalb said the city needs to find out how the people see the image of Burbank, something the city plans to explore when the brand process begins.

“Branding is something we’ll look at down the road,” he said. “With the current financial picture, we need to be prudent with every dollar.”

Valencia, a community developed by Newhall Land in the Santa Clarita Valley, has gained media attention in recent months with its new slogan, “Awesometown.”

“We wanted to reinvigorate the brand of Valencia after we were hit hard by the economy,” said Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land. “When we went out in the community, every third person used the word awesome.”

Valencia wanted a refresh of the “live, work and play” slogan that Burbank uses, she added.

During his presentation to the City Council, Sterling presented examples of the various styles of signs the city has used, from the libraries to welcome signs to community parks — all of them using different fonts and designs.


In addition to physical rebranding, consistency in city publications is also on the horizon for Burbank.

“The key to success is the consistency and people recognizing it immediately,” Sterling said. “We need to make sure we’re doing a better job, and the public information office will be taking a lead role in that.”

Deputy City Manager Joy Forbes, who started her tenure with the city in an internship position, said she agrees with the plan and thinks the rebranding effort is analogous to the centennial efforts on the horizon.

“Everyone wants to remember the history of Burbank and embrace and be proud of it,” Forbes said. “We consider ourselves to be innovative and forward-thinking as well though, and have to be willing to try new things.”

The Economic Development office has already started to present a refreshed brand image for Burbank instead of the city’s seal or logo when advertising to attract businesses and residents.