Let’s Talk! Elizabethton could benefit from power of branding

Published 3:04 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Take a moment and think about what you’ve heard people say when you mention you’re from Elizabethton. What is the picture visitors describe to you when you say Elizabethton? Branding is not often a term you hear in local government, but is a very powerful tool for private sector businesses. Branding is not only about how a product or company is perceived, but also about how that product or company delivers on that perception. Local governments and community organizations are noticing the power of branding and over the last eight years, we are starting to see communities become brands.

To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, what cities come to mind when I say Country Music Capital or Wine Capital of America? You think very specifically of Nashville and Napa Valley, probably without even naming the state. Locally, Bristol has built its brand around NASCAR and for good reason — it’s the home of the Bristol Motor Speedway!

Community branding answers questions about what sets us apart from other communities in the region, what do we have to offer that people can’t get or do closer to where they live and what strengths do we offer others in the region? These answers become the basis for our community brand. Community brands provide many benefits to a community. A brand serves to help unite various organizations and helps everyone move in the same direction. These organizations can be formal such as the Chamber of Commerce, City Council, or the County Commission or more informal such as the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, or the Downtown Business Association. Imagine if you had four horses pulling a carriage and all four wanted to go in different directions — we would be getting nowhere fast! A community brand helps unite these organizations encouraging everyone to pull in the same direction.

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Community branding also answers questions like why should anyone move here and why should people visit us. The answer to these questions are the reason businesses will want to move here, tourists will want to visit here and people will want to move here. Whether positive or negative, whether it’s advertised or not, every community has a community brand.

So, what is our community brand? What comes to people’s minds when you say Elizabethton? If it is positive, how can we let the world know what it is? If it is negative, what do we need to do to change it? Let’s talk about it!

Jon Hartman is director of Planning & Development for the City of Elizabethton. Reach him at jhartman@cityofelizabethton.org. Send comments or questions about his column to community@elizabethton.com.