My commentary on Brookings's $84,000 branding makeover last week brought an enlightening response from Mike Knutson and his commenters at Reimagine Rural. (If you want good rural brain food without the accusations of racism, socialism, or other isms, Reimagine Rural is for you!)
Knutson says branding is important, but community branding is bigger than what one commenter refers to as a "swoosh and a tag line." "Our brand is our collective identity," says Knutson, "expressed in many ways when people encounter our community."
I couldn't agree more. Our real brand is the total impression our community makes, formed by everything we do. It bubbles up out of our culture and commerce. Madison's brand comes not from the Marketing Committee or the friends of Prostrollo who sit around the card table and make the rules for Madison. It comes from what Casey at Classic Corner and DeLon at Dairy Queen and Shaun and Jenny at Mochavino do each day as they serve customers. It comes from the experiences professors and food service and Patti at the bookstore create for DSU students. It comes from the directions visitors get at the new public access point on Lake Madison when they ask Jim Thompson and his fishing buddies about the local housing market. It comes from the suggestions and slushballs I toss right here online.
Madison's slogan and banners are not our brand. They are the meta-brand, an attempt to describe and encapsulate our brand. Our actual brand rises organically from all the things we already do. We all participate in making that brand. That collective identity is too big, has too much cultural momentum, to be substantially changed by peripheral meta-branding efforts.
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