Taxpayers on the Hook for City’s $195,000 Rebranding Campaign

Apparently, the city of  Burnsville has an image problem. Or is it a branding problem? The agency with the winning bid to redefine the aging suburb puts it this way.

It seems that Burnsville, like many other suburbs of major metropolitan areas, struggle with their brand. Who are we? Where did we come from? What makes Burnsville, Burnsville?

It’s going to cost local taxpayers up to $195,000 this year to figure it out, more in the long run. That’s how much residents will be billed for AE2S Communications, the Grand Forks agency just selected for the project, to rebrand and market Burnsville based on the existential questions raised in its proposal.

But, perhaps most important, is figuring who you really are. What makes you tick? What do you hold dear? Because, quite frankly, if your residents can’t embrace what makes you, you–nobody else will either.

It’s not just Burnsville. Other municipalities that have hired the North Dakota agency at taxpayer expense for an image makeover include Grand Forks ($50,000 for “Way Cooler Than You Think”) and East Grand Forks ($28,000 for “Life Connected”).

Burnsville’s identity crisis emerged from the city’s strategic planning process last year that identified a hodgepodge of issues for the community of 61,000 to tackle. For example:

There is a strong desire for a shared vision everyone can support with a plan to achieve it

Need a brand/identify

City is at “turning point” with tremendous opportunity, but also potential risk

It’s not clear how a new tag line and logo addresses the more pressing concerns on the city’s checklist, including the school district’s “poor reputation,” lack of land for development, young families leaving or avoiding the city and a need to attract more high-tech and start-up companies.

A brand is all about the emotion evoked when talking about a product, or in this case, a community. We will endeavor to capture this emotion and use it to develop a brand for Burnsville through our approach…

Still, city hall touts the “revisioning” process as an essential element of a comprehensive plan to turn things around–tax dollars well spent.

“I like what I’m hearing in terms of your process and strategic direction,” Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said at the April 16 city council meeting to approve the plan.

The agency’s fee for convening focus groups, interviews and other activities to build the brand will be capped at $136,000. The remaining $55,000 of the 2019 budget will be spent on marketing the rebranded Burnsville.

“We’re very excited to be working with the city of Burnsville,” Andrea Boe, AE2S practice leader and marketing strategist, said at the city council meeting. “It’s such an important project to further develop your brand. And then also we’ll be working on an integrated marketing communication plan to support the economic development strategic plan.”

Moving forward, it will cost taxpayers $183 per hour for the agency’s services to market and support the city’s shiny new logo over the next five years.

A logo and brand is only part of the process. How do you use it? How should it be implemented? How should you tell people about the new logo?

The “new Burnsville” will be debuted at the city’s annual Fire Muster festival in September.