Jan 172013


By Wesley Brown

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Along with designing a new brand for the city, a market research firm from Nashville, Tenn., promised this week to compile a list of the top 100 companies that could “make sense” in Greenville.

The recruitment tool is seen as the pinnacle of three months of research that North Star will conduct on Greenville and places with comparable labor forces to help figure out how to sell the city as an economic powerhouse.

The data-gathering started on Monday, when four North Star executives landed in Pitt County to take a three-day tour of Greenville and meet with city, industry, education and tourism leaders to understand what makes the municipality attractive to business.

The company said it will return in the spring with a 15-step plan the city can follow over the next three years to promote Greenville as an area rich in resources and ready for more industry.

“This is huge,” Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas said. “As much as we have learned in terms of specific branding, more important is the compare and contrast between other communities across the country, which North Star has studied in depth and can supply a treasure trove of information of potential businesses and companies that may be an ideal fit for Greenville.”

In their first day in the city, Don McEachern, president of North Star, said his staff toured downtown, visited the Convention and Visitors Bureau and drove around East Carolina University’s campus.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the group met with industry leaders and each of the City Council’s members to provide an overview of the branding process.

“We have a saying that your brand is what people say about you when you are not around, and that branding is what you do about it,” McEachern said. “Well, branding has a little bit of a branding problem because people think it’s all about a logo and a line, but we think (branding) is what can you do to impact your reputation and, in doing so, grow your community and make it as competitive as possible.”

McEachern said that since North Star was founded in 2000 it has helped 170 communities in 35 states by using big-budget advertising to design an “umbrella brand” that will market tourism, economic development and local assets.

The process revolves around two P’s that are far different from the four taught in college marketing classes — product, price, place, promotion.

“Politics and passion,” McEachern said. “You can’t help but to have an emotional relationship with where you choose to live and grow your business.”

McEachern said the city’s branding campaign will be about “empowering the people and giving them a story to tell about Greenville.”

“Logos and lines do not create jobs,” he said. “The passion of the people who can articulate what is relevant and distinct about their community creates jobs.”

While North Star will provide all of the core branding services, the company also will seek community input through surveys, forums and stakeholder focus groups.

Their plans include a six-month and one-year checkup, as well as a three-year update on consumer trends in the area. The company beat out seven firms, three of which were from eastern North Carolina, to win a $90,000 contract with the city in November.

“This is very exciting and a great moment for the city,” said District 3 Councilwoman Marion Blackburn, welcoming the company during the board’s monthly meetings this week. “We can start to tell the rest of the region, the state and the nation who we are in a more succinct way.”

McEachern said the results of the branding effort most often are not revolutionary, but look at city marketing from a different angle.

He realized not everyone will embrace the ideas his staff proposes, but said doubters will understand how his staff got there strategically.

With ECU engaged in a federal lawsuit with Cisco over the slogan “Tomorrow starts here,” McEachern said all imaging will be reviewed by a patent attorney to make sure no brands are copied.

He said it will be the city’s responsibility to trademark the brand his staff recommends.

“What we like to see when we come back is ongoing innovation in developing a brand and new loan products taking root,” McEachern said.

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.


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