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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Madison Marketing: We're Losing Jobs, But We're Tough and Progressive... Really!

I get a kick out of reading Rick Killion's Prairie Business. It's a hoot watching how our friends and neighbors market themselves and seeing how Madison's efforts stack up. The July edition suggests that the recession is weighing heavily on the Lake Area Improvement Corporation's marketing minds... and pocketbooks. Here's the latest expenditure of our local economic development dollars:

Note first that Madison is buying just a quarter-page ad. That's a fair scale-back from previous splashy full-page ads. And hey, it's a recession—ad buys are down all over*

But do we need a Madison booster ad that reminds us Madison's getting beat up in the recession?

...From its beginning, Madison
has survived many ups and downs
and still continues to thrive due to
the tenacity of our community. During
these difficult economic times, we
continue to put Madison first by
working to create new jobs, assisting
those who have lost their jobs...

Dang: if the economy is bad enough to make even the marketing crew at the LAIC talk straight, we must be in really tough shape.

I'm torn here: on the one hand, this acknowledgement of Madison's economic troubles reflects an authenticity that I've found lacking in previous local marketing efforts. But Governor Sanford was being authentic when he called his mistress his soulmate, and I'd suggest that was a message better left unpublished.

Madison's ad in the July Prairie Business is the only community development ad to take the "Gee, times are tough" tack. Instead of spending their ad dollars to tell everyone bad news that they can find out elsewhere, towns like Watertown, Aberdeen, and Mandan all mention specific things they have to offer (like Mandan's I-94 location, low-interest biz loans, and Renaissance Zone... for businesses whose employees dress like daVinci and make lutes and lances, I suppose).

Even the closing cheer in our ad—"We can make it happen!"—carries the unwelcome subtext that we aren't making it happen. If we're spending money to tell our story, we would do better to give examples of our successes (and leave it to the media and snarky bloggers like me to lob the counter-example tomatoes).

Oh well—here's to Madison's "progressive future," in which we finally bring in jobs that break Madison's secret wage cap... and in which the LAIC finally figures out how to do marketing right.

*except online—thanks, More Than Clean Water and Rutland School!

1 comment:

  1. Within the advertisement are the words, "first by
    working to create new jobs". Those words exemplify the number one priority of LAIC. If we are to measure job performance by that standard, it appears we're coming up short in Madison and the Lakes Area.

    Madison has lost Rosco, Arctic Cat, Proko, Vinyl Extrusions, J4 and others, and has seen dramatic cutbacks at Gehl, which has always been a foundation employer.

    The economy has taken its toll on business expansion lately, but prior to last fall's decline, where were the new jobs? Who are the new industries we're attracting? How do we measure the success of LAIC efforts to "create new jobs"?

    "Necessity is the Mother of Invention" and when times get tough enough in Madison, our community will dig in as a group of resident volunteers much like it did when Morrell's closed decades ago, and get the job done...Again.

    So the question begs, where exactly are the new jobs and what is our local ratio of new jobs added to jobs lost in the past five years?

    A community without measurable goals of job creation will continue to expect unexpected growth while doing the same thing over and over again. Walking on a repetitive treadmill gets you nowhere.


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