“Why Edmonton?” That’s the root question behind the Make Something Edmonton city brand and reputation initiative, which reported back to Executive Committee yesterday. They started with a lovely video summing up the “Make Something Edmonton” spirit:
For my family, the answer to ‘Why Edmonton?’ is a mix of great schools, great quality of life, great quality of place including the river valley, amazing culture, and perhaps most importantly the open spirit of opportunity – that entrepreneurial bent that imbues business, the arts, our NGOs, and even (sometimes) government here in Edmonton. But the challenge has been that we have at least 830,000 different answers to ‘Why Edmonton?’
Building a brand is about cultivating a feeling – an emotional connection: I heart NY (love when people hated their city in the ’70s); Keep Austin Weird (quirky, grassroots and crowdsourced); Windy City (it’s not for the wind – rather, it was earned by sheer force of persistence as Chicago leaders were famous for their blowhard promotion of their city).
I think the first phase of crowdsourcing this brand is working – the emotions behind it certainly resonate with people I’ve been speaking to during the course of the campaign. I want to highlight the five themes that the initiative has distilled through their work (from page 6 of the report):
- Creativity/creative vision (something from nothing)
- An entrepreneurial spirit (business, arts, social)
- A sense of urban barn-building (help and cooperation)
- A flat culture (lack of aristocracy; anyone can do it)
- An unusual economy (opportunity; eases risk-taking)
Now, as to whether we should actually change the entrance marker signs that currently say Alberta’s Capital City and City of Champions, I don’t know yet. (Todd Babiak has some thoughts on this here.) There’s more work to do on the tagline end of things. Though, I actually think we may be in the post-slogan area. The value of the brand is the emotion and stories behind it, not necessarily a tagline. But if we find a set of words that resonate with enough Edmontonians then I wouldn’t rule it out.
One of the immediate suggestions I like the most is putting the words, “What are you making, and how can we help?” on every City employee’s business card, and perhaps beyond, encouraging other Edmonton employers large and small, public and private, to do the same. That embodies the spirit that built most everything we see around us that we love in Edmonton – the very things that we invoke when we offer our particular answers to why we live here.