As a few of you know, North Star Destinations, the Tennessee firm Glendale hired to create a marketing strategy, finally answered the $64,000 question. How do we market Glendale to the outside world? The problem is the $64,000 question cost us about $140,000. And the answer is… drum roll please…
“Your city. Animated.”
I know. Most of you are just ecstatic about this new catch phrase. You can't wait to see the return on investment for this new jewel. I am the only one who literally laughed out loud when I first read this. And then the laughter died.
North Star worked on our marketing strategy since March 2010 and this is what they delivered? Are you kidding me? This positioning line does not serve Glendale, unless someone within City Hall explicitly told North Star the prime objective was to create a strategy focused solely on attracting animation companies to rent commercial space in our city. In that case it works, but only as an amateurish double entendre.
This positioning makes no sense for any other business within Glendale, nor does it have any real benefit driven positioning that would attract a diverse audience to our city, which should have been the prime objective of the marketing strategy in the first place.
According to Alison Maxwell, the city's deputy director of economic development, “Glendale has long been content to be a quiet, productive, safe community, but now it's time to let the secret out.”
What secret? That we are animated? Suddenly we live in Toon Town? How does the word “animated” instantly reveal a dynamic civic personality?
“Ladies and gentlemen of the board, we must move our widget company to Glendale. It's animated!”
Last week, Mayor Laura Friedman said the branding strategy is an important element in attracting good-paying jobs. “We need to attract companies, and this branding will help us do that,” she said.
Yet back in September 2010, Friedman said, “Talk to anybody who has a retail shop, who sells real estate, who has a restaurant,” Friedman said. “I believe this is an important part in helping our city compete.”
Compete for what? More animation companies? Talk about niche-focused marketing. We've actually developed a brand position to reach a micro segmentation of the business world. It's like we're looking to feed our family and we've gone fishing in the ocean with bait that only hooks one in a million fish. Not to present a tired cliché of my own, but we may have been better off casting a bigger net. That'll be $50,000, please!
Maxwell said the tagline can be molded to fit different activities, such as using “Work. Animated” or “Your Appetite. Animated.”
C'mon. Do you know the number of times you are going to have to repeat that message to explain and leave an impression in the minds of shoppers? And I'm certainly not going to have my appetite satiated by animated food. I don't even know what that could possibly mean. If my steak looks back at me and asks, “What's up, Doc?”, I'm never coming back to Glendale again.
And hats off to Councilman Dave Weaver for calling the rebranding project — with a budget of $1 million in redevelopment money — a waste of money.
“I feel like Uncle Scrooge. I just don't get it,” Weaver said.
Dave, you may be the only one on the current city council who doesn't get it, but you are not alone. I've been in advertising and marketing for more than 20 years and I can't make heads or tails of this strategy and from the letters I've already received, there are other business professionals like us.
In my opinion, we hired an agency from Tennessee and all they gave us was a cookie-cutter marketing strategy that could be applied to almost any city in America. What Glendale failed to realize is that the true test of a good marketing strategy is its “ownability.” In other words, if you remove your name from the positioning statement, can a competitor's name be easily inserted? In this case, the answer is yes. The word “animated” has little to do with our unique location, culture or other intangible benefits. It's not branding. It's just a word, pasted on to the name of our city.
I don't see any rationale given as to why this marketing strategy is specific to Glendale. But then again, did anyone from Glendale hold North Star to that standard? If not, shame on us, not them.
As far as why it took North Star nearly 15 months to deliver this non-strategic piece of work when it was supposed to arrive in four or five months? My only guess is they completed the assignment in a few weeks but it took them more than a year of rehearsing before they could present it to city officials with a straight face.
I can't wait to see how the other $850,000 of this marketing budget gets used. Hopefully part of it will go to hire someone with real marketing experience to direct our path moving forward.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.