Spring Hill considers signing $66,000 contract with marketing organization for “place branding”


Spring Hill considers signing $66,000 contract with marketing organization for “place branding”

Photo courtesy of the city of Spring Hill

BY ALEXANDER WILLIS

After approving up to $50,000 for a marketing effort for Spring Hill back in July, city officials have narrowed their selection down to Chandlerthinks LLC, a Franklin-based marketing company that specializes in what’s called “place branding.”

City officials listened to the owner of Chandlerthinks, Steve Chandler, give a brief presentation Monday night during a regularly scheduled work session, with the cost of the project exceeding the previously budgeted $50,000 at $66,000.

“Place branding” refers to the branding and marketing of a specific location, usually a community, as opposed to a product, such as clothes or fast food.

“Branding a city is not exactly like branding Nike tennis shoes, or Coca-cola,” Chandler said. “There’s three things that I believe are fundamental of branding a municipality that’s more challenging than Coca-cola or tennis shoes; one, we don’t own our name. When you say Spring Hill, a lot of associations can come to your mind, and people use Spring Hill in lots of different ways.”

“Number two,” Chandler continued, “we don’t have complete control of our product. People are promoting Spring Hill all the time, and there’s nothing we can do about it. And the last thing is, we don’t have top-down direction like a CEO of a company does. You all can guide the best you can of what you want your community’s reputation to be, but you can’t require what Spring Hill’s reputation is going to be.”

The process of branding by Chandlerthinks would be broken into four distinct phases; research, strategy, positioning deliverables, and plan of action. The research phase includes multiple focus groups, interviews with city leaders, and essentially breaking down what makes Spring Hill, Spring Hill.

The strategy phase, the shortest of the four, consists of applying all the collected data into a format that can outline the character of the city, setting the stage for the next phase of positioning deliverables. This third phase involves the implementation of everything learned; creating a new brand logo and tagline, guidelines for consistent future development and expression applications, and developing a brand story.

The final phase involves a presentation on all the findings to city officials, as well as a strategy to be consistent with the new brand on all future development.

While the city had previously approved for up to $50,000 to be spent on “place branding,” the vote proved divisive, with three aldermen voting against the resolution. Alderman Amy Wurth had previously called the projected cost “a monumental amount of money,” and that she would not support the resolution. Former Alderman Chad Whittenburg and Alderman Matt Fitterer also did not support the resolution back in July, citing a lack of measurables for success.

During Monday night’s meeting, Fitterer expressed similar doubts of the project as he did in July, specifically citing a line from Chandlerthinks’ own proposal documents, which called on the city to create its own measureables for success.

“It’s on page 17,” Fitterer said, reading from Chandlerthinks’ submitted documents, “the response states ‘we can, and should, create new measurements for success’, and if we can’t define what those are as a group before we vote on this, we have no business voting on this.”

Chairman of the Spring Hill Economic Development Commission Jim Grimes said the process of selecting which company would best serve the city as far as branding came down to the wire, but that he was confident in their choice of Chandlerthinks.

“We’re in a competition for the kinds of jobs that we’d like to see in Spring Hill, primarily white-collar jobs, and we think this gives us some tools to go out and more effectively compete with, what we think, are competitive cities that are not very far from here,” Grimes said. “By having a more professional process to go about putting our name out there, putting our face out there, we think that it will benefit us.”

The proposal will be voted on by the board of mayor and aldermen during their next voting meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 22. Meetings are open to the public, and are held at City Hall, at 199 Town Center Parkway, Spring Hill, TN 37174.

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