City sours on ‘darn nice area’ rebrand after $43,000 in taxpayer funding

Somewhere along the way, local officials started buying into the concept that cities need to develop a so-called brand to drive growth and economic development. The city of Rochester has spent well over $150,000 on a slick new logo and crusade to slap it on city signs, vehicles, stationery and anything else official. The city’s website provides detailed instructions for properly using the logo the Post Bulletin describes this way.

The result was a new logo design that includes an abstract “R” created by “ribbons” forming an arrow, which was intended to reflect the city’s primary brand message “forward together.”

Seeking to create that message of unity, the design provided the opportunity to create coordinated logos for the city’s various departments.

Meantime, the city of Willmar embarked on a campaign earlier this summer to sink $35,000 in taxpayer funding for a rebranding effort the West Central Tribune indicates will ultimately cost much more.

[City Operations Director Kyle] Box explained the importance of brand identity for a community and what that does to attract developers, showing that Willmar is a unified community, knows what it is doing and looks professional.

He also acknowledged that it will cost money to replace everything, but it will be done in phases and can be fit into the budget when feasible.

City leaders in North Mankato were also gung-ho after rebranding the community as a “Darn Nice Area” in a campaign picked up at the time by media outlets like KEYC.

“Darn Nice Area” is designed to show residents and people outside the region how nice North Mankato is. The slogan stresses happiness, kindness, success, progress, fun, beauty and togetherness.

North Mankato officials want to promote everything about the town from the arts, history, and businesses.

Crews have added banners on the flagpoles around town to promote the new campaign.

Two years and $43,000 in taxpayer funding later, however, the Free Press says the folksy marketing slogan has become an embarrassment. The North Mankato City Council wants nothing more to do with the discredited rebrand.

“The biggest issue I’ve heard is usage of the ‘darn,’” she [city councilor Sandra Oachs] said. “It doesn’t look as classy as it should…”

“I hear nothing good about it,” he [City councilor Billy Steiner] said. “I’d really like to get rid of that three-word part of it.”

All the emails and calls about it have been negative, said Council member Matt Peterson, calling the slogan “hokey.” Council member Jim Whitlock questioned if the slogan was even grammatically correct.

The Darn Nice Area campaign still appears on a promotional website created by the southcentral Minnesota city. There’s talk of salvaging the DNA acronym for use in the future somehow. Meantime, other cities considering throwing tens of thousands of taxpayer funding at brand building may consider an alternative wording for DNA — Do Not Attempt.

[City Administrator Kevin] McCann on Friday said the city is in the process of gradually removing “Darn Nice Area” references in response to the council’s direction. The process will involve taking down the wording from communications and web pages and figuring out what to do with banners.