Building a Brand for a Region – 12 Years of Collaboration to Develop Brand Promise

March 6th, 2019

Are you an employer looking to use the Make It Your Own brand for talent recruitment? Find all of the materials you need here.

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Make It Your Own Placemaking Brand Rooted in Research

After more than six months of analysis and design, the Regional Partnership team celebrated Valentine’s Day with the unveiling of the regional branding initiative.

Launched at the Regional Opportunities Council, our investor board meeting, it was gratifying to see hundreds of stakeholders and residents come together to develop and launch the new brand with far-reaching, national impact for our talent attraction efforts.

It was a joy to observe the herculean efforts of the Vision 2030 brand ambassador committee, the brand task force, Britton Marketing & Design Group, Development Counselors International (DCI) and the Regional Partnership team along with many other supporters, including regional sponsors, as they brought life to the new brand identity Make It Your Own.

Make It Your Own

A Brand for Talent Attraction

Make It Your Own is live in the world yet it’s still important for us to understand why Northeast Indiana must have a brand for talent.

Through the brand, we showcase life’s best opportunities in a region that welcomes and encourages new residents to not only participate but to get engaged, taking ownership of career, living and community.

Northeast Indiana is experiencing a critical workforce shortage. Between 2010 and 2015, Northeast Indiana’s 11 counties collectively lost an average of 1,000 people a year to other communities. Currently, on any one day, we have more than 6,000 unfilled jobs on our regional jobs portal. To keep up with the projected growth of employers, we have set a clear target to grow our population to 1 million people by 2030. This goal is just not realistic unless we aggressively recruit and retain talented individuals to contribute to Northeast Indiana’s growth and momentum.

The Make It Your Own brand is bold and energetic, targeted specifically to the most mobile demographic in the economy–those ages 21–45. The brand embraces our region’s legacy of manufacturing and innovation and it embodies Northeast Indiana’s strengths and opportunities. Make It Your Own captures the essence and ease of living in this region – our diversity of life and industry. The brand comes to life through authentic stories of residents and business owners who make life here their own every day. 

As part of the development of the branding strategy, the Regional Partnership conducted two targeted perception surveys, one with an external national reach and one internal to the region.

The national perception survey gathered information from 1,250 people ages 21 to 45 in Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit and Toledo. This survey found 59 percent of respondents had no perception of the Northeast Indiana region. Additionally, 55 percent of those surveyed reported they would be willing to relocate for the right job.

While we must continually work to improve our “product” here in Northeast Indiana (quality of place and infrastructure), we have an immense opportunity to promote our community to those outside our borders.

12 Years of Building a Region

Twelve years of preparation got us to where we are today. A regional brand for talent is not just dreamed up with a few surveys, focus groups, creative deliberations and fanfare. Brands are built, earned and developed over years of paying attention to people’s needs and delivering on their interests promptly, consistently and with high quality.

In our case, the Northeast Indiana brand promise was developed over the course of 12 years.

We broke down outdated economic development paradigms to build trust, learn best practices, invest in our communities and enhance our infrastructure to produce the most collaborative region in the state. That’s no brag, it’s just a fact. It’s what we do here every day.

This collaboration is our brand promise. It’s not just the logo and tagline that are transformational, it’s our reputation delivered broadly and consistently. This brand is not based on what we “liked” but what resonated with the external target talent surveyed.

Now it is up to us to implement the brand tools and materials through our network of regional employers, partner websites and recruiting efforts. While we are thrilled with the Valentine's Day “splash,” we understand that building and disseminating the messages requires a sustained effort over many years. Economic developers, employers and members of the community all play a role in making the brand come alive. 

If we are effective in our reach, we will add to the momentum and growth we are enjoying today. Making the brand come alive is all about pushing in the same direction to turn the flywheel faster and faster; aligned and sustained execution over time is the fuel of transformation.

Making the Brand YOUR Own

Now is the time to focus on the urgent and necessary effort to deliver our brand identity broadly. The brand materials' are intended to support the recruiting efforts of any and all employers with an authentic and clear message that Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana is a special place where you can make your life, your work and your home. 

We are looking to build a foundation of passionate ambassadors for Fort Wayne and all of the communities of our region. We must not underestimate the collective impact over a sustained period of time of residents, businesses, economic development organizations, chambers, tourism leaders, real estate agents and many others that make up the “voice” of Northeast Indiana.

We have worked diligently to all get on the same page. Now is the time to speak up with a unified voice!

Through the brand strategy process, we created a comprehensive, three-year implementation blueprint to guide our upcoming work. The strategies and tactics identified in the blueprint are a mix of national media relations and marketing, programming, employer recruiting support, social media and content generation to be executed by the Regional Partnership. 

Living the Brand

To close, I extend heartfelt appreciation to the working team who brought our vision to life for a regional brand. This collaborative team was uniquely positioned to do this branding work on behalf of the region, pairing qualitative and quantitative data with creative expertise to execute the Make It Your Own brand in a way that I believe rivals the launch of many powerful consumer brands.

We have devoted the last 12 years to align and build a collaborative region to compete in a global marketplace. No more excuses. We have earned the right to position Northeast Indiana with a bold and energetic identity. 

The team created a series of videos, the Northeast Indiana Lookbook and a Make It Your Own Pocket Guide containing key regional messages to arm employers with visual marketing support and language to talk about life in Northeast Indiana.

Download all the brand assets here.

Now, I urge you to go out there and Make It Your Own in Northeast Indiana.

Watch the Make It Your Own Webinar Below

Hear from the Regional Partnership's President and CEO John Sampson, Vice President of Communications Kate Virag, Director of the Road to One Million Michael Galbraith, Development Counsellors International (DCI) and Britton Marketing & Design Group about the research, development and strategy of Northeast Indiana's new brand for talent attraction.

Need more help? Contact Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Communications Kate Virag to learn more about Make It Your Own material.

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