In 2007, Longview, Texas, had not completed a comprehensive branding process for many years. Several different and conflicting brands were being used, so the need for a strong community brand was obvious.
The Longview Chamber of Commerce organized a cooperative effort with the Longview Economic Development Corporation and the City of Longview. We agreed to hire a consulting firm to conduct a study that would produce the data needed to develop an effective brand.
We also conducted surveys and focus groups about why people moved here and how they perceived the community. We combined those results with existing market data to develop a detailed profile of Longview. Then we created a brand promise from these findings, and local agencies developed logo designs using examples provided by the consulting company.
A slight problem
Although the conclusions from our surveys and focus groups were very accurate and produced a clear image of our community, the first version of the tagline met resistance from the community. "All three boards approved it," recalled Chamber President Kelly Hall, "but when we presented it to the community it fell flat on its face."
The ho-hum public response wasn't the only bad news: The consulting firm had recommended to Longview the same tagline—"Pure and Simple"—that it had convinced another tourism association client to use a year earlier.
Longview leaders decided to keep logo that had been newly designed and to hire "a slogan guru," Hall said. "We had to tell the community, 'You are right, and we were treated wrong, and we want you to help us solve this.' We couldn't leave elected officials, board members or staffers hung out to dry. Believe me, it was not a fun process."
The community was invited to submit slogans to a website. Out of 2,000 entries, 20 were chosen by the slogan guru for editing and there was a further winnowing process with the rebranding committee. Finally, three slogans were submitted to the community for a vote. The winner was "Real East Texas Living," which is still used in messaging about Longview, but the phrase has been shortened to "Real East Texas" on the website.
"It was a branding car wreck, but it turned out great," Hall said. "It brought us together. Three entities had to collaborate, make decisions together, get creative and get everyone to agree that we will overcome this problem no matter what. Today everything is changed. Conference attendance is up, job numbers have increased, sales tax dollars have increased, population is up and there's been a slight increase in property taxes. We have more agreement on our direction and more consistency in our messaging. The silos would be wider and deeper without that experience. We're more of a community now."
Paul Anderson is Sr. V.P. and director of communication at the Longview Chamber of Commerce.
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