What’s Your Perception of Northeast Indiana?
Survey Gathers Input for Regional Brand
This past month, the marketing team at the Regional Partnership launched a branding initiative to clearly articulate the powerful reputation and character of Northeast Indiana. As always, we are working in collaboration with highly-respected partners. In this case, we are well served to be teamed with our regional marketing agency, Britton Marketing, and our national public relations firm, Development Counsellors International (DCI).
You may be wondering just what is the “branding initiative” and why is the effort not just important, but critical to the future of our region? You might also wonder, why now?
Yes, I will speak directly to each of these questions, but before I do, I offer an important call to action—now’s the time to get engaged and take the perception study! Diverse opinions are necessary to ensure this effort is well informed and represents our collective strength with authenticity.
What is the regional branding initiative?
I recall clearly as a youngster my Dad lecturing me on telling the truth and doing what you say you will do. I can hear him saying, “John, your name is everything. Will you be good for your word? Will others trust you for what you say you will do?”
Dad was right. The value behind our names is all about reputation. What do others think and believe about us when they hear "Northeast Indiana"?
Put simply, it is a process to develop and communicate the capabilities and reputation of Northeast Indiana through a name, logo, tagline and consistent messages reflecting our proven results and value for residents and employers.
More basically, what is a “brand”? A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. Make no mistake though, a brand name or symbol alone means nothing. It is not the brand name that provides the differentiating qualities in the eyes of customers. The value in a brand is rooted in the reputation, performance and ability to deliver service that the brand or symbol embodies as a value proposition. Brand names, good or bad, are all about reputation, character and results.
Why is the branding initiative critical to the future of our region?
There are many dimensions that speak to the importance of branding to our region and its residents. We could discuss the extremely competitive landscape for talent, good jobs and business investment throughout the country, and in today’s market, globally. We might argue how important it is to distinguish Fort Wayne from communities like Fort Worth and Fort Myers.
Or, we might emphasize how critical it is that we share a common voice in “selling” our hometowns as ambassadors when we communicate with friends, families and associates. This is not to overlook how important it is that we, as residents, identify with our communities’ unique qualities and a collective reputation for being welcoming, open and diverse. Without a clear brand identity and common voice, how could we even begin to tell a consistent story reflecting the very special place where we make our lives and make a living?
A powerful example played out this summer in a competitive project for a firm in our region. In this case, the company had received a formal letter from another region describing a collective commitment for the area’s higher education institutions to collaborate to ensure a talent pipeline of qualified candidates. Rightly so, the company was impressed with the description of this entity’s promise to deliver customized training to meet the needs of the firm.
However, I was even more impressed by what was not promised in the letter. The letter made no unique or distinguishing claim to provide any specific, tangible benefits to the employer other than a promise to deliver on the reputation of past performance. The employer legitimately accepted that brand promise.
What have we been waiting for? I will not mince words on this one. It has taken over a decade for us to earn the right to have a name, capabilities and reputation to deliver an authentic brand reputation.
Our region has clearly demonstrated the consistent and tenacious ability to collaborate, compete and deliver results that matter to employers. In the earlier days, we focused on developing and delivering infrastructure, business climate and a pipeline for a skilled workforce. We know how to locate and generate business development leads tailored to our core strengths in our target industries. We came to know one another better through the Our Story Project. Most recently, we have made dramatic investments in Fort Wayne and all across the region in quality of place assets to retain and attract the workforce for current and future employers and grow our population faster.
There is not one shred of arrogance here to claim that we have somehow “arrived.” We have worked tirelessly, confronted tough issues and learned to trust one another. No, we have not arrived. But we have done our homework, shrugged-off any ties to a Midwest rustbelt past and built a region that collaborates to deliver results. We have earned a respected reputation worthy of a clear and powerful brand identity.
Clear affirmation of this fact comes to me in the form of others – economic development organizations, business leaders and elected officials from outside of Northeast Indiana – asking, “How did you do that?” in regards to our collaboration and success as a region.
That’s why now is our time.
The call to action!
You have read my lone voice on what this is, why it is important and why now is precisely the right time to “go to market” with our unique brand reputation. Now it is your turn to weigh in. Diverse opinions are encouraged, sought after and necessary to make this process true and authentic.
Now is our time, Northeast Indiana.