What is a city's brand?
In the world of marketing and promotions, a brand is much more than a logo. A brand is what people think of when they hear a city's name. Think of New York City, and you probably can't picture the city's logo. You picture Broadway, Times Square, and Central Park. You might equate New York City with being busy, diverse, and exciting. That's New York's brand. Their logo is just part of it.
Cities use their brands to attract new residents, visitors, and businesses. A clear brand helps cities attract new additions to its community that will help it thrive, and helps residents and visitors know what the City stands for and what it's all about.
Why Does the City Need a Brand? What's Wrong with the Old One?
We're not quite getting a new brand, we're developing a brand for the first time. While the City has utilized several logos throughout its history, the City of West Allis has never had a clearly defined brand. In 2017, the West Allis Common Council approved the City's Five Year Strategic Plan. Goal #1 of this plan is "Brand/Image/Destination:"
The City of West Allis will become the "preferred municipality in the Milwaukee Metropolitan area, the state, and the country"* for visitors, residents, and businesses through focused rebranding, marketing and promotion actions. * as per the West Allis Vision Statement
A key action under this goal states that the City will "formalize a clear image through (a) marketing and brand development process." This means that with the adoption of the Strategic Plan, the Common Council committed to researching, documenting, and defining West Allis' brand so the brand could be leveraged in the future to promote development and tourism.
Who Designed the New Logo and Developed the Brand?
Savage Solutions, a Milwaukee based marketing agency, was selected by the City of West Allis Tourism Commission (and approved by the Common Council) to spearhead the rebranding project. In fall 2016, the City of West Allis issued a request for proposal (RFP) seeking a qualified professional marketing firm to lead the rebranding. The City sought a third-party partner for this project to ensure that not only would a professional, artistically pleasing logo be created, but to ensure that the logo was tied to a larger overall promotional strategy to strengthen the City's image locally and beyond. The RFP specified that the City was seeking a new logo, but more importantly, that the City expected the selected firm to prepare a multi-year marketing plan and strategy to help the City grow its residency, tourism, and business base.
Over a dozen Wisconsin marketing firms submitted proposals in response to the RFP. Savage Solutions was selected because they have experience branding other municipalities (such as Oak Creek and downtown Waukesha), and because the Savage team is genuinely passionate about West Allis as a community. They were (and are) enthusiastic about playing a role in supporting the City's future.
Were West Allis residents and businesses involved in the branding process?
Absolutely! After the City selected Savage Solutions to lead the branding project, the Savage team quickly began meeting with local business owners, community leaders, school officials, and residents to learn more about West Allis.
In early 2018, seven different focus groups were held that included a cross-section of West Allis stakeholders, including residents. The focus groups were asked questions such as "What do you love about West Allis?" and "What do you think are West Allis' greatest challenges?" Nearly 40 members of the community participated in these focus groups, and in general, the focus group responses were the same. Participants loved West Allis' dining options, history, sense of pride, community feel, and friendly neighborhoods. Participants felt the City was challenged by its old industrial image, empty storefronts, and attracting and retaining new residents.
Savage Solutions also led an online survey during this time that over 3,000 respondents took, simply asking how they felt about the term "Stallis." The result of this survey was a 50/50 split between respondents who liked/disliked the term.
How Did the Survey/Focus Group Results Impact What Savage Solutions Created for the Logo and Brand?
It was clear to Savage Solutions that West Allis residents were proud of the City's past and excited about its future. This led their design team to create a logo that acknowledged the City's long history by including its "established 1906" date, but that was youthful, fun, and bright, to support the new developments, residents, and opportunities in the City's future. The circle represents the City's ever-changing, ongoing commitment to the community's spirit and strength, and the inclusion and unity among residents.
The orange, turquoise and gray color palette reinforces the youthful energy of the community while upholding the City's proud manufacturing past.
The scripted font felt genuine and sincere, with a bit of nostalgic attitude to further embrace the City's past.
One thing focus group participants were eager to share with Savage Solutions was their "why:" why they loved West Allis, why they were raising their families here, buying homes here, starting businesses here, or moving businesses here. The focus group participants were excited to tell the Savage team about all of the reasons they were passionate about the community; Savage will be leveraging that enthusiasm as they develop a multi-year marketing plan (PDF) for us, and encourages residents to tell their West Allis story at the "That's Why West Allis" website.
Did My Taxes Go Towards This Branding Project?
No. No residential tax dollars were spent on this project, which is funded by tax revenue the city earns from Wisconsin local room tax laws. These laws require that a percentage of hotel room taxes collected within a municipality be used by the municipality to promote tourism promotion and development. There are guidelines that define what constitutes acceptable tourism spending. This project met those requirements, and room tax revenue funds paid for fees associated with this work.
How Much Did This Cost?
The first phase of this project included extensive research by the Savage Solutions team, creative time developing the logo and brand identity, and time spent planning the rollout of the new brand. This phase totaled $47,500 and spanned over six months of work.
The second phase will cost $20,000 and will be provided to Savage Solutions to create a three-year marketing plan to promote West Allis' business and tourism opportunities.
Again, all funding came from room tax law funding, which the city can only spend on tourism-related initiatives.
Why Didn't the City Have a Contest to Pick a Logo?
Because funds were available through the Wisconsin room tax laws, and these funds had to be spent on tourism initiatives such as this, the Tourism Commission and Common Council agreed that it made sense to contract a professional firm to complete this work. This ensured that not only would the logo and branding elements be thoughtful and of good quality, but they would also be connected to the larger multi-year marketing plan (PDF).
The brand launched on Saturday, Oct. 13 at West Allis Farmers Market. Savage Solutions is working with the City to promote the brand across the community and region (PDF). The first phase of this process will focus marketing on businesses and attracting new businesses to the community. Ads will be run on local radio stations and in print publications such as The Milwaukee Business Journal. Social media, websites, and content marketing will be leveraged to help support the campaign. Share your excitement for the new brand on social media using #thatswhywestallis, or visit That's Why West Allis.