If could hear what people are saying behind it’s back, then what would it do about it?
That’s the heart of the , and it’s the essence that Ed Barlow, director of client strategies with North Star Destination Strategies presented during borough council’s meeting last week.
North Star, he said, is a brand research organization that works with 150 different communities.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not around. Everyone in this room has a brand. Every place has a brand,” he said. “Branding is what you do about what is being said about Lansdale.”
Branding, he said, is not just taglines and logos; it is much more than that.
He then went on to explain 10 things that are behind branding.
Barlow’s presentation looked at popular logos and brands of products and services we are all familiar with. After each one, he asked council and the audience to write down something related to the purpose of each brand for Lansdale.
For instance, Country Time Lemonade invokes feelings of belonging, relaxing and emotion.
What kind of emotions do you have about Lansdale?
Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World, for example, and Las Vegas and Williamsburg, VA are logos of experiences.
What experiences stand out in your mind about Lansdale?
FedEx, for instance, is related to trust: they will deliver on time, every time.
“What’s the promise for Lansdale?” Barlow asked. “What can we count on here? Is it an engaging downtown? Accessibility? Great parks?”
Barlow said a store like Target is a place where, if you were blindfolded, and you were led into a Target and the blindfold was taken off, then you could tell where you were standing based on the aesthetics of your surroundings.
Barlow asked to describe the look of Lansdale, as its aesthetic is important to its brand.
“Brands are rooted in the past and present, but always hint toward the future,” Barlow said.
A brand like Mercedes, he said, is about aspiration.
“People think, ‘I have arrived when I get a Mercedes-Benz.’ When will Lansdale arrive?” he said. “What will it aspire to be?”
There are brands about rewards, and Starbucks is mostly about that, he said. A $5 coffee can be a reward.
“What do you give yourself by living here or what do visitors give themselves by visiting here?” Barlow asked. “What’s the reward of Lansdale?”
Corporations like McDonald’s, for instance, know their target. McDonald’s hits the targets young, so that that brand loyalty gets them early and carries with them as they get older.
“Who should Lansdale target?” asked Barlow.
Branding is also about knowing your identity. A corporation like Coca-Cola has not changed its identity in decades, but it has changed the way that identity is communicated.
“Know who you are and embrace it,” Barlow said. “Be the best you can be. Be the best Lansdale you can be.”
Then, there is consistency in branding, such as is the case with Absolut Vodka.
The goal for Lansdale, Barlow said, is for the borough to be speaking in one voice.
“You want to focus your existing marketing efforts and budgets in a way that can benefit everyone in Lansdale,” he said. “This process is not about changing you. We want to discover, uncover, the best you and then get everyone on the same page.”
Brands, Barlow continued, are about getting your message to the right people, so that they can make a choice.
“Without getting your message out there, you’re making that choice difficult,” he said. “You want to be part of that choice. You want to make sure Lansdale is in that conversation.”
Then, Barlow asked the audience to give a reason why they choose to live, work or play in Lansdale.
Barlow concluded that brands are not about logos or taglines; they are about emotion, experience, trust, aspirations, aesthetics, rewards, your identity, knowing your identity, knowing your target and consistency.
“You will tire of North Star saying your brand is not about your logo or a line,” he said. “It’s about a lot more and the work you will do behind that logo. No one in this room, and I haven’t known anyone, that has moved anywhere, visited anywhere or taken business anywhere based on a logo or a line.”
Barlow said Lansdale has to create tools that lead to prosperity.
“It’s that strategic orchestration of what you can do to affect what they are saying,” he said. “In order to know what to do about what they are saying, we have to know what’s being said.”
From here on out, North Star will begin with research by one-on-one interviews with residents, man-on-the-street interviews, interviews with people outside of Lansdale, focus groups and surveys. From there, they move to strategic solutions, finding out what the spot is for Lansdale and finding that competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Then, North Star will consider how to treat that creatively. Finally, there’s the action phase – they will implement the brand throughout the town.
“We will take all this information, review it, come together and discuss Lansdale. I’ll take back everything we’ve learned, share it with the rest of the team, and be involved in identifying that strategic position,” Barlow said. “It’s all that information we will then narrow. There will be a lot of different opinion that will help guide it.”
Barlow said North Star will take all of its experience with community branding, and all the research gathered from Lansdale, develop insights, and then come back with a strategic recommendation.
“We will get that down to a sentence – a strategic brand platform,” he said. “It will not be a list of choices. We will make a singular recommendation based on research and our experience.”
Towamencin Township resident Scott Hemmons proposed Lansdale should take its most common theme and run with it – the railroad.
Hemmons said he proposed an idea years ago with previous councils that would save a lot of time, trouble, research and expenses to come up with what the borough needs.
“What do we have here in town that is almost looked at as a liability, that is ubiquitous no matter where you go throughout the town, that’s been a key and important part of the town and the identification throughout its history? That’s our railroads,” he said.
Hemmons said Lansdale could be a bigger and better Strasburg, PA, located in Lancaster County.
“Take what we have and turn it around and make that the new railroad mecca,” he said. “We have our borough seal, and there’s no trains on the seal. All things here were key and started and successful because of railroads in town.”
Hemmons even suggested turning the old freight station across from Vine and Broad streets into a railroad museum.
Hemmons also mentioned his discussions with a Colmar man who runs a successful hot dog vending business in Philadelphia. He said the man could start a Caboose Café in that area of Lansdale, selling hot dogs from a real train caboose, much like is done with Dilly’s Corner on River Road in New Hope.
He added that Lansdale is even named after the surveyor of the railroad: Philip Lansdale Fox.
“If you’ve ever been lost in the ‘Lansdale Triangle’ – Broad, Main and Railroad Avenue – turn it around and make it our asset,” Hemmons said. “It’s already right there in our laps. All we have to do is apply that theme and run with it.”
Hemmons also remarked he’d like to see Rite-Aid ripped out and sent up to Hillcrest Shopping Center to bring that development back to life.
He said every new development design could be based on the railroad theme.
“We’re ready to roll,” he said. “If everybody likes that, we can go with it.”