The Kent Brand
It wasn’t that long ago that Ford Motor Company’s biggest flop, the Edsal, forever changed the automotive landscape. The Edsal’s failure prompted Ford to reexamine their approach to product design and from that effort they realized that they don’t just sell a product, they sell a lifestyle, an image, a dream. Using that insight Ford went on to design the most successful car in its history, the Ford Mustang, that personifies lifestyle branding and is now an American icon. We’re busy doing the exact same thing for Kent; trying to understand, define and leverage the Kent brand to write our community mustang story.
|How others see us. How we see ourselves.|
Branding has a long history of success in the marketing of commercial products and in recent years branding techniques have also been used in the public sector by cities seeking to improve their market position and competitiveness by building brand identification and loyalty with their communities as the product. Like its private sector cousin, a city brand is intended to capture the essence of what the community represents, what it aspires to be, what it values.
Branding is a means to link the Kent name to a community narrative – to compress and make explicit the implicit promises of what it means to live, work and play in Kent. An effective brand “channels” that spirit of the community, telling a story through words that grow into ideas with associative images and personal meaning. In this way the brand contextualizes the product (Kent), making it relevant to people and influencing their relationship with Kent.
In a world of look-alike, seemingly mass produced suburbs that recycle the same “been there done that” experience, branding is a process of separating, rising above the noise, “remarkabilizing” Kent in an entirely Kent sort of way. It’s defining and revealing the “Kent-ism” that is unmistakably Kent and animates the Kent ethos.
The Kent brand is valuable because it affords people the chance to live and experience those powerful Kent brand myths that attracted them to Kent and make it the kind of place they want to call home. Those myths are the simple stories with compelling characters and resonant plots that define the Kent mystique. The iconic Kent brand encapsulates and celebrates those myths in a way that is accessible to the people that want to write themselves into the next chapters of the Kent story.
I personally think that Kent ’s future depends on rediscovering and reinventing itself; embracing a new self image, a vital view, a unified, progressive, confident, can-do, bootstrapping, no apologies pride in our corner of northeast Ohio attitude. The brand provides a means to share that view and create a “brave new” Kent that celebrates its many pieces in a way that channels, connects and synthesizes them into a unified sense of community — telling the Kent “we” story from a 1,000 “me” stories.
I’ve been talking and working with a lot of different people to try to understand the Kent “we” story. From that work I wrote a (very large file so be patient with loading time) BRAND CONCEPT REPORT that begins to put some shape around the branding thoughts for Kent. This is a conversation worth continuing and I hope you’ll check out the report and let me know what you think.
Chattanooga Tennessee did an exceptional job with it’s branding, “Can Do Chattanooga” to reinvent itself from a tired, declining manufacturing has been, to a vibrant place that is now showing up on all the lists of best places to live and do business. Trust me, if Chattanooga can do it, so can we.