Small Town Branding: How To Make Your City More Attractive

Small towns across the country are working hard to brand themselves in order to make themselves more attractive places to visit, work, and live. 

Branding isn't exclusive to businesses. It can also be for governments. Cities.

One might even say that municipal branding is the most important of all, since a thriving community helps businesses flourish. Small towns across the country are working hard to brand themselves in order to make themselves more attractive places to visit, work, and live. 

If you're a municipal clerk, city manager, or just a proud citizen who wants to see their city shine, at Town Web, we're going to talk about how to market your small town.

1. Make The Mindset Shift: Destinations Are Like A Business

When people google an attraction, they're usually typing the activity first, and then destination. So someone might type, "mountain biking Utah." This is important because you shouldn't try and show your town as "something for everybody." The "group-hug" mentality that most communities seem to adopt simply won't work if you want to stand out in your small-town marketing efforts.

You need to double down on whatever it is that makes you different or clearly better than other cities. That means asking the important questions:

Be specific in your messaging. You want to be known for something, and that means saying no to a lot of other things.

2. Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is (Brand On What's Realistic)

A lot of town branding initiatives are done in one of two ways:

  1. A top-down approach where the image is based on the municipal government's vision, which usually ends up being too grandiose to feasibly deliver on. So you end up with appealing promises that quickly nose-dive to the ground, leaving you with a bad rep that's hard to recoup.
  2. Or it's a bottom-up approach where the public has the controlling say, which often leads to a muddied plan trying to keep everyone happy.

This is why you want to build your town brand on feasibility instead of local sentiments or overly ambitious government visions. Start with an assessment. See where your brand is today and determine where you'd like to be. You can still gather some local opinions and identify the most loved aspects of your town.

Related: 5 Civic Engagement Examples to Help Reinvigorate Collaboration and Communication in Your Neighborhood

Remember these critical questions as you go:

3. Get Everyone On Board With The Plan

Branding is not just a marketing effort. It's an organizational one, too. The whole community needs to be on board and work together if you want to make real progress.

Try and get everyone to use the same language when talking about your city. This means having a clear tagline that everyone can use and making sure your website, social media, and marketing materials are all saying the same thing. Consistency is key.

It also means getting buy-in from all the different stakeholders in your community. That includes businesses, nonprofit organizations, and of course, local government. Once you have everyone on board, it'll be much easier to make progress. 

It’s also a best practice to maintain constant communication with town members to maintain that foundational rapport which builds a spirited community. Our Communication Platform makes it easy for Clerks to stay in touch with residents

4. Create A Logo Or Seal

While most towns have seals, they are rarely used except on official stationery. But you want to put your municipality's seal to good use! You can give your website, Facebook page, and everything else in-between an immediate visual identity that your residents and visitors can recognize as yours, and not something set up by a disgruntled resident. 

On that note, set up a color palette.

Colors or groups of colors are associated with every great brand. McDonald's has yellow, Coca-Cola has red, Pepsi has blue, and so on. Well, it's the same for municipalities. Choosing your palette doesn't have to be complicated. An ideal palette would include one neutral color (such as white, black, or beige), two primary colors, and a secondary color.

Think about your town. In your opinion, what is it mostly associated with? For example, because Pittston is known for hosting an annual tomato festival and since they're located alongside the Susquehanna river, they chose a white background with tomato red and blue as the main colors.

5. Stock Up On Beautiful Imagery Of Your Town

When someone googles your town, you want it to be love at first sight. High-quality photos are important for your website, social media, marketing materials, and anything else you use to represent your municipality.

Beautiful images will show off your town in the best light and make it more attractive to potential residents, businesses, and visitors. If you're not a professional photographer, don't worry! You can find plenty of great photos online from sites like Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels.

For instance, with our website redesign work for the City of Glen Cove, we decided to prominently show the body of water that the city is well-known for. It is a small thing that highlights the city’s uniqueness and online identity. 

Just make sure you have the photographer's permission to use their photo and that you credit them properly. Most importantly, make sure the photos you're using are recent. Nothing looks worse than a town website with photos that are 10 years old.

For example, Sauble Beach is a small town in Ontario, Canada. When you google their name, you'll be met with beautiful images by local residents and tourists alike of the second longest freshwater beach in the world.

6. Crank Up Your Printed Collateral

While most of your branding efforts will be online, don't forget about the importance of print! Flyers, posters, and postcards are still an effective way to market your municipality - you just have to get creative with how you use them.

After you have completed your new branding - your new seal/logo, your color palette, etc. Start using them on your printed collateral. Most municipalities simply print copies of their documents with their seal in the header. The last thing anyone wants to see is a municipality form that's been in the photocopier too long and is barely legible. Yes, it may be budget-friendly, but it's also dull and looks cheap.

With a good municipal identity kit, you'll be able to maintain consistency across your collateral and provide everything you need for your printed materials and forms. Your forms are also a form of free publicity, and it's likely that you're handing out more of those than business cards themselves. Doing so will portray your town as professional and consistent with its branding.

By the way: Town Web can help you launch an attractive, easy-to-use website that features online forms.

For example, you could promote local businesses by giving out free postcards at their stores. Or, if your town is hosting an event, hand out flyers to promote it. You could even put up posters around town with positive quotes about your municipality.

7. Flesh Out That Website

It's the 21st century. Today's business card is your website. Think about all the potential tourists who are browsing all the different places they're going to visit – let's be real, most municipal sites aren't exactly eye-catchingly sexy.

Understandable. The better half of us prefer old-school, and most government teams are too busy or don't know how to set up a dashing website with proper search engine optimization. But without it, there's no way you're going to show up on the search engine results page and make an impression.

Often the municipalities who wake up to this truth opt to hire agencies like Town Web who specialize in bringing out a town's most beloved aspects through beautiful and responsive websites so they can attract the most attention, love, and business.

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Having been doing this for almost 15 years for over 600 municipalities, we know a thing or two about municipal branding. Get a free quote from us today and secure free website redesigns every three years to make sure you always stay spiffy.

Town Web services are approved for use with ARPA funds!