Branding Canada’s National Capital

In my blog “The Lifeblood of Tourism is Marketing” , I discussed the importance of marketing as an important function for governments, particularly cities. I pointed out that in an era in which governments need to be more responsive and accountable to the needs of the public; marketing can help public sector organizations accomplish this goal. With public sector organizations spending significant dollars delivering programs and services, especially in the area of tourism promotion there is a need for increased efficiency, accountability and transparency. With the managerial shift of the public sector to mirror a business-like approach, the adoption of marketing and related managerial practices can serve as a key component in strengthening accountability in public sector operations

I also pointed out that in recent years many cities and regions have chosen to market themselves in one fashion or another.  Such marketing initiatives characteristically suffer from a lack of creativity and innovation and fail to benefit from the lessons that decades of marketing experience in the private sector have taught managers in business. Such difficulties can be minimized, however, with overall expert marketing oversight and approach.

So  here is the latest missive from the wonder folks from Canada’s National Capital Commission (NCC)

The National Capital Commission is working to develop a catchy yet dignified slogan, to be unveiled in June, that’s meant to brand the capital region as a source of pride for all Canadians. Based on public opinion research conducted for the NCC, it’s unlikely the capital will be branded as: “fun,” “dynamic,” “modern,” “cosmopolitan,” or “innovative.”More likely, the region will be portrayed as “historic,” “interesting,” “beautiful,” and “welcoming,” while the NCC also strives to make it “inspiring,” “environmentally friendly,” and to make sure it “reflects the entire country.” “It’s not just a phrase. It’s about: Why does (the capital) matter to you as a Canadian?” said NCC chief executive Marie Lemay. “There are a number of things that are important to Canadians that are not, in their mind, reflected in the capital. Those had to do with the environment, with making it more reflective of the country, and inspiring. Working on those is really important. … It’s about the value of the capital to Canadians.”

The slogan according to the article  is to be part of a five-year $2.5-million branding and marketing project that the NCC began last year. Yikes 2.5 million and this is what they come up with!!!

Here is a question? How does this overall initiative integrate with the City of Ottawa’s  4 pillars described in my previous blog “The Lifeblood of Tourism is Marketing” ?

  • Ottawa as a capital city (Parliament Hill and environs);
  • Ottawa as a cultural centre (our museums and galleries);
  • Ottawa as a place to enjoy nature (the Gatineau Hills and green space);
  • Ottawa as an urban experience (restaurants and shopping).

Do the people at the NCC talk to the people who run the Ottawa Tourism Board? Who Knows?

However, later on in the article you get the clue that the branding may not be for Canada’s Capital City Ottawa but the National Capital Region an outmoded concept that has never worked but the NCC keeps trying. Don’t they ever give up?

For example, “NCC chair Russell Mills and member Jacquelin Holzman, a former Ottawa mayor, questioned whether it would be possible to create a brand for the national capital region, rather than a specific city such as Ottawa. Holzman recalled that previous efforts to market a “Canada’s Capital Congress Centre” had failed, leading to the moniker “Ottawa Congress Centre” instead.”

Yes Ms. Holzman we who live here remember it well. But does the NCC have no corporate memory?  Guess not.

Also board member Frieda Martselos, from the Northwest Territories, said that representing First Nations in Ottawa will take actions, not just words.”When I come to the capital I find I don’t see a lot of First Nations portrayed here. A couple of hoop dances on July 1 and an ice sculpture at Winterlude isn’t going to do it. … Until I see something permanent, we haven’t fulfilled our mandate,” she said.

Also the survey points out that four out of five Canadians have a positive impression of the place. (Considering all of the negative media towards Ottawa politically every day of the year this is a very positive if not surprising result) Most people saw the capital as historic, interesting, beautiful, welcoming, and culturally rich. Fewer saw it as fun, dynamic, modern, cosmopolitan and innovative.

“It doesn’t matter that much — they don’t expect you to be those things,” said Ipsos-Reid vice-president Alexandra Evershed.”

(Yes but why don’t we surprise people when they come to Ottawa and work on being a little more dynamic with some pizazz as our Mayor keeps telling us. Also what is so special about being modern, don’t you want to visit a place that has a bit of history. If you want a modern city go to Calgary. We may not be cosmopolitan but innovative…  now that would be a challenge for Ottawa, let’s work on it. In other words maybe we need a little repositioning for our city so Ottawa does become a FUN place to come to. Why don’t we strive to become what sells a city rather than focus on what people’s perception is of our capital? Isn’t part of marketing to change or alter the product offering?  )

Alexandra Evershed. States that a large number of respondents want the capital to be inspiring, environmentally friendly, and reflective of the entire country, yet feel that it fails to achieve those characteristics.

Inspiring, not sure what that means and how do you make a destination inspiring? Environmentally friendly, what does that mean (Our claim to fame environmentally is  we dump our raw sewage in the Ottawa River?) and would love to know the underpinnings of why this will encourage people to come here ( not sure they come here to swim) .  Finally I always thought that Ottawa (at least the National Capital) was reflective of the country. If not, what is missing? As Kelly Egan states in his article in the CitizenThe capital covers two provinces, two cities, two main language groups and myriad dis-similar places: from the Peace Tower to the peaks of Gatineau Park, from the bicycle paths to the National Gallery, from Greenbelt to grunge. Not to mention the people: three founding cultures, our hyphenated latecomers, young, old, the handicapped, the notable dead, war heroes, scores of politicians, and Alanis”.

WARNING: Some marketing advice based on my experience , beware of marketing researchers trying to be marketing strategists . This happens all the time. The marketing researcher will look at the data and make recommendations on how to develop the marketing strategy. The problem is most of these folks  are researchers and not strategists . They look at the research results and suggest that their clients abide strictly by the findings.  But that is not what marketing is all about . Marketing is not only a science but an art. Marketing is taking what is there the customer’s present perception and trying to reposition the product to better provide a product that the customer will love and enjoy.

A marketer will come up with : Las Vegas – “What happens here, stays here.” Hip, sneaky, hints at the wild side — exactly what the gambling mecca is about.

“Virginia is for Lovers” is considered one of the best, most enduring campaigns, as is “I Love New York.  As opposed to  a horrible slogan  like  “Ottawa: Technically Beautiful,” Yuk.

Oh one more thing  branding gets thrown about as a synonym for “new logo,” or “slogan”  but if that were the case, then branding would be the domain of graphic designers and copy writers  alone. I thought this was supposed to be a marketing strategy and there is a heck of a lot more to marketing and branding than a slogan. To find out how branding works, and how to build a brand in government and non-profit sectors ; Check out our Guide to Branding in the Public and Non Profit Sectors which has been published by the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing.

Another reminder to  readers of my blog to register for MARCOM Professional Development, taking place June 10 & 11 at the Hilton Lac-Leamy.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the program  or review the speaker roster , then I strongly encourage you and your colleagues to review the great line-up, make it part of the training plan and register before April 16.

Here are our key note speakers:

Mitch Joel: President, Twist Image

He is a marketing and communications visionary, interactive expert, community leader, Blogger and Podcaster. In 2008, Mitch Joel was named Canada’s Most Influential Male in Social Media. Mitch joins MARCOM to deliver the Opening Keynote on June 10th.

Terry O”Reilly: Age of Persuasion Host CBC Radio.

O’Reilly looks at what animates creativity and how the art of persuasion informs our culture. He delights both general audiences and advertising veterans, pointing to trends and dispatching timeless lessons. O’Reilly is an ad man in love with the promise of advertising but not blind to its shortcomings. Attendees of MARCOM 2010 will hear Terry deliver a keynote on June 11th.

I will be involved in the following sessions at MARCOM:

June 9, 2010 – Workshop

09:00 – 16:30 Social Marketing Planning – Implementing an Effective Campaign

Jim Mintz | Director, Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing

One of the biggest challenges in Social Marketing Planning is the Implementation stage. Many organizations develop great plans, but poor execution leaves them wondering why they didn’t achieve the desired results. In previous editions of MARCOM, Jim Mintz has taken participants through a proven process for developing their social marketing strategy and plan. At MARCOM 2010, you will learn how to transform Strategies into Action! Jim will briefly review the social marketing plan process and then move into detailed discussions surrounding how to successfully implement your strategy. In this tough economy it’s important to ensure maximum impact for marketing dollars; especially when you are moving from planning into implementation where the majority of your budget will be allocated.

You will learn 7 key areas for social marketing plan implementation:

  1. What questions to ask when working with marketing and communications suppliers;
  2. How to develop a creative brief to ensure your communications agencies remain on strategy;
  3. The Do’s and Don’ts for smooth supplier relationships;
  4. Innovative ideas to fully leverage a limited budget;
  5. How to present and “sell” your social marketing strategy to management;
  6. How to approach and capitalize on strategic alliances;
  7. How to evaluate your campaign progress and success.

Take the next step: Join Jim Mintz and move your plan into action!

June 10, 2010

08:30 – 09:45 Session 1: “Leading the Charge” Panel: Learning from Marketing-Driven Organizations in Government

Facilitator: Jim Mintz | Director, Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing
Karen Dufton | Senior Director General, Service Canada, Head, Marketing and Communications
Greg MacDougall | Director, Communications, CATSA
Lisa Allaire | Director General, Production and Advertising Services, Department of National Defence

What is a marketing-driven organization? What are some of the challenges faced in transforming a bureaucratic culture into a customer-centric organization? How do you get buy-in across the organization? These are some of the questions that will be answered by our panel of public sector marketing leaders who will share their experience and expertise on how they are creating a dynamic marketing culture in their organizations and what you can do to advance marketing as a powerful business transformation tool.

Hope to see you there.

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