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Rochester Spends $150,000 on “New Destination Brand”

If there’s one city in Minnesota that ought to think twice before throwing away taxpayer dollars on creating a “brand” it’s Rochester. The first thing that comes to mind at the mention of Rochester? Mayo Clinic.

It may be the seat of Olmsted County, but Rochester has long enjoyed a reputation far beyond our borders as a medical center and research powerhouse. Hence Rochester’s nickname Med City.

But it’s a “New Year, New Brand” as of January 1, 2018. The Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, just renamed Experience Rochester MN, even lists “the top ten facts you need to know about our new destination brand” on its website.

Number one? “Rochester provides world-class medical and technological advances in a friendly, welcoming community.”

The southern Minnesota municipality budgeted $150,000 to $160,000 to create a new “brand platform,” tapping into funds from the city’s seven percent hotel tax. The Rochester Post Bulletin tried to pin down what a “brand platform” when the Brand Task Force kicked off last January.

The word “brand” has become a very broad term in recent years. What does it mean exactly for this project?

“We’re developing a brand platform for them. That can mean a lot of things. it’s more than a logo, mission, vision or promise and all of that,” [Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Brad] Jones said. “It really tells us what our strengths are, what our position is within the marketplace and how we communicate that to people. It aligns your organization to how you talk about it, how you sell it, how you market it and how you position it.”

Granted, the old logo and tag line–“Rah Rah Rochester, more than you know”–probably needed to go.

Jones said the effort to replace Rah Rah Rochester started about two years ago, when the brand “kind of ended its shelf life,” even as it was embraced by some and mocked by others.

“I think it brought out passion, whether you liked it or disliked it,” he said, noting the new brand comes at a time for needed change.

The shiny new slogan–“Minnesota’s Rochester: America’s City of Care and Innovation”–states the obvious.  But city officials stand by their decision to pay the New England agency, Fuseideas, $112,000 to re-imagine “rah rah.”

In fact, visitors to the website learn more about the bland behind-the-scenes details of the branding process than the city being branded.  For example:

Fuseideas conducted hundreds of interviews, focus groups, and surveys with Rochester community members, visitors, convention center clients, promoters, sports events organizers, and more to gather relevant information and data used in developing the new brand. The process of arriving at the new brand also involved creative design, user testing, copy writing, and strategic development.

Maybe the last item on the city’s New Year, New Brand Top 10 list will help create the buzz that so far seems to be lacking.

Be the brand- Continue to be caring and innovative — your efforts matter!

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