Firm hired for city promo

CITY HALL — Glendale is too widely known as the nondescript place between Burbank and Pasadena, with little distinguishing it to the outside world, City Council members say, so a marketing firm has been retained to ramp up the city’s image.

The firm, North Star Destination Strategies, earned a $146,000 contract to research and develop a marketing strategy complete with logos, tag lines, a website design and sample advertisements that could match a package developed for a university or tourist destination, officials said.

North Star recently promoted Providence, R.I., as a hotbed for entrepreneurship and has marketed Dayton, Ohio, as a center for ingenuity.

“This is all that we do,” said Samara Anderson, marketing director for North Star. “We specialize in helping communities market themselves.”

The decision to hire North Star came from the Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday and was the unexpected product of an effort to create a “Buy Glendale” promotional campaign for struggling local businesses during the recession.

The campaign was meant to be a quick response to sharp drops in consumer spending at local businesses, which officials had hoped to stimulate by educating residents about the importance of frequenting their neighborhood stores.

But the City Council, acting as the agency, slowly realized the complexity of its request to promote each of the city’s varied business districts and communities in one cohesive marketing campaign aimed at residents in Glendale and around Southern California.

City staff changed course and sought out marketing firms after months of experimenting with its own TV commercials and advertising materials that fell flat with the City Council.

“As we began to look at it, we began to realize that this is a far more complicated and involved issue than we initially thought,” said Councilman John Drayman, who serves as chairman of the Redevelopment Agency.

The move to develop a marketing strategy moved the agency into uncharted territory that inspired discussion about long-term cultivation of an identity that the city had not paid much attention to in the past, Drayman said.

Glendale’s reputation as “the bedroom community between Pasadena and Burbank” developed in past years as its neighbors grew in stature with the popularity of media giants and the Tournament of Roses Parade, he said.

“That was just fine for those days, but we are now the third-largest city in the county, and we now have a very large infrastructure and economies to support here and, as I say, we are on the verge of some major changes in this city,” he said.

Glendale’s unique mix of businesses, including animation studios for DreamWorks and the Walt Disney Co., community shopping areas and retail destinations like the Glendale Galleria and Americana at Brand, and a developing arts landscape, with the Alex Theatre and potential Museum of Neon Art, could give the city its own flair, he sad.

North Star will begin conducing its research and development for the branding strategy in January and does not plan on making a proposal until June.

The costs will likely be much larger than the initial contract, Development Services Director Philip Lanzafame said.

The delay in implementing a promotional campaign was acceptable to officials because the agency is no longer focused on short-term fixes, they said.

“The more we looked into it, the more we realized that it’s not a quick Band-Aid solution,” Deputy Development Services Director Emil Tatevosian said. “They’re talking about more of a citywide marketing, branding effort. The time’s right for it, so that’s our next step.”

Elissa Glickman, who is secretary for the Downtown Glendale Merchants Assn. and was part of a seven-member committee that evaluated and recommended North Star, was supportive of the agency’s decision to contract the firm.

North Star had shown that it could handle an array of challenges when it promoted other cities, she said.

But creating an effective marketing plan for Glendale’s diverse landscape and its business communities would not be easy, she said.

“Once they find the answer, I hope they tell me because I’ve been trying to figure it out,” she said.

 ZAIN SHAUK covers business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at

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