Universal Appeal. Is it possible for a community brand with a strong economic development focus to also resonate with residents and visitors? Marathon County, Wisconsin – located between Green Bay and Minneapolis wanted a community brand with a focus on recruitment and retention of business and industry that would also appeal to the people who live and play in the region. Past efforts had fallen flat when dry economic messaging failed to connect with the essence of what makes the County special. Is it possible to develop a community brand that is both economically competitive AND emotionally compelling?
“Our research showed that Marathon County’s central location in the state is its most significant economic development benefit. Its access, convenience and affordability are big draws for business,” explained Don McEachern, CEO of North Star. “Leaders knew their location and proximity were economic assets but the idea of a brand based on a central location left them feeling flat. Research insights revealed a distinct work/life balance that defines the region . . . the diversity of activities and attractions and the vitality and energy of the people.”
Strategically North Star addressed this conundrum by expanding the idea of being in the center of the state to also being “centered” as a state of being. North Star recommended that Marathon County target individuals seeking an affordable, active, secure lifestyle and position itself as a place that is centered in its geography, its values and its culture, providing a life-work balance of support, resources and opportunity.
The creative concept is based on the idea of Marathon County being on “Wisconsin Central Time”, a place where time is on your side because you are close to the best of everything Wisconsin has to offer. The line literally establishes the region as the center of the state while all creativity and action focus on a more spiritual plan, establishing Marathon County as a place to recreate, re-create and renew. Messaging focuses on the idea that the time is always right, because you’re in a zone that beckons you to seize the day, catch and release, and enjoy it all again tomorrow.”
One of the ways North Star brings your community brand to life is with a Brand Identity package, which is the creative representation of your community brand. Creative goodies include recommendations for a logo, strap line, color palette, print ads, outdoor boards, t-shirts, websites and more! (Note: The “initial concept” is North Star’s recommendation. As our client’s brand implementation progresses we will provide their “evolution of the idea”!)
Bringing a two-dimensional county brand to life in a three-dimensional community
takes a strong brand action plan. Following are a sampling of action ideas from
the hundreds developed specifically for Marathon County. All were designed to
help them wear their county brand like a second skin.
- Develop a workforce initiative for employers/employees built around the Power of Now - The
branded community-wide campaign is designed to support, encourage and reward individuals, businesses and entrepreneurs who pursue their dreams right now.
- Develop a branded award or recognition program for employees - Group all awards under the umbrella name of Power of Now, indicating a business that seizes the day and makes the most of opportunity. For instance, you might sponsor a Power of Now Innovation Award for an employee who brings new ideas to work.
- Infiltrate your infrastructure - Both residents and visitors should be able to recognize when they enter Marathon County. Entry signage on major highways into the County is one method of reminding drivers that they are entering Wisconsin Central Time.
- Infiltrate your infrastructure - Signs don‘t always have to be beside the road…sometimes they can be ON the road itself. Towns, villages, and cities throughout Marathon County can spruce up their downtown areas by incorporating the brand identity into crosswalks at an important intersection.
- Wow visitors in hotel rooms with branded goodies - Co-brand hotel key cards with Wisconsin Central Time logo.
- Create branded merchandise/promotional items - Whether it‘s a hat, t-shirt or reusable shopping bags, branded merchandise is a tangible, memorable way to keep the Marathon County message top-of-mind with residents, visitors and businesses.
County Logo Starting to Take Off
Re-Branding Marathon County
Research shows residents think businesses would do well in
Marathon County launches branding project
“The process used by North Star Destination Strategies helped us uncovered what differentiates Marathon County from other areas. Our competition was already marketing themselves and we needed to take action—and that is why Brand Marathon County initiative got started. We have a tremendous opportunity to attract businesses and people and share with them why this is such a great place to work, play and live in the moment.
It is vital that communities market and promote their assets to gain a greater share of revenue streams. Our brand is strong and will help us recruit and grow targeted industries such as manufacturing and bio agriculture. Besides moving our community from good to great, our goal is to educate and help people understand this as more than a logo and a tagline. Wisconsin Central Time is what makes us unique—it’s a feeling you get."
- Karen Nerison, Marketing/Programs Director, Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce and
siMarathon County Development Corporation