Monday, February 28, 2011

What is the brand, who does the branding, and other necessary questions.

I attended the branding meeting last week at the YMCA, and there'll be more to say on this proposal, although for now, let's concede that while branding downtown is a good and desirable idea, the way this most recent best branding plan has come to fruition raises numerous red flags, as so often been the case in such matters.

What's the brand? Is it referencing price point, lifestyle, multi-cultural? What's the definition of downtown? Who gets to play? Why this marketing firm and not that other one? Is it for independent businesses, chains or both? Are ads on bus stops in Louisville really reaching the chosen target audience? What is the chosen target audience? Why not Columbus or Indianapolis? Why not all the people in Floyd County who still don't know downtown exists?

And: Why not ask the intended beneficiaries first, rather than permit the proposal to trickle down to them?

It's the same argument I recently conveyed to planners at One Southern Indiana, which after remaining uninvolved for so long when it comes to local independent small business, has elected to randomly choose one marketing program out of many to tout (3/50), then feed it to the intended recipients from the top down: Here's your medicine, and leave bridge tolls out of it. All well intended and good, but not a strategy calculated to involved businesses.

The simple fact is that for the entire time I served on Develop New Albany's volunteer board (2006-2010), our officially chartered Main Street organization consistently took a hands-off approach to economic development in the context downtown businesses, preferring to interface via an intermediary in the form of a loosely organized merchants circle.

Now it is 2011, the going's marginally better, and more than a few small businesses on the ground have done some (probably much) of the heavy lifting in terms of financial necks on chopping blocks, which is as it should be.

Now, in 2011, in swoops a specific marketing firm (nothing against Dudgeon, but couldn't this have been a "bidding" arrangement?) with a specific marketing proposal.

Now in an election year the funding magically appears, almost certainly emanating primarily from the city and the UEZ, and voila! At long last, downtown marketing ... but, alas, from the top down, not from the bottom up.

(For Paul and the other Young Turks at DNA, heaven knows I understand you're working very hard to accomplish something, and please don't take any of this as a rebuff to your efforts. You are the future. I'm not expressing knee-jerk opposition here, just asking questions that need to be asked so that the general reading public can consider them. These things always seem to occur to a predetermined cadence, and we need to ask why.)

Conspicuously absent from these proceedings is New Albany First, perhaps the only example in recent memory of an organization embracing all applicable businesses within the city limits, one choosing to gradually evolve from something approximating genuine grassroots consensus, with the stated object of creating an independent business association and implementing "buy local" marketing efforts.

Yes, there is an admirable degree of togetherness to be praised whenever DNA, UEZ and the city combine forces. At the same time, wouldn't it be better to have had -- to still have -- everyone at a table so that we can sort through these many organizations and proposals, and come up with a policy that reflects a higher standard of unity?

To be fair, this applies to 1Si, too. Although I opposed it, the council gave a monetary stipend to 1Si, and 1Si is indicating that it wants to give some of it back by backing the 3/50 scheme. The point it, there are five or six organizations interested in aspects of the same objective. Can't they all come together, divide the labor, and let the actual businesses being branded receive collective "credit" rather than the identity of the umbrella itself?

Sorry. I just had to ask.
Advertising blitz would tout downtown New Albany businesses; Develop New Albany, UEZ and city partnering on promotion, by Daniel Suddeath (One Southern Indiana Newspaper)

Two New Albany organizations are collaborating with the city to fund an advertising campaign focused on branding the downtown entertainment district.

Develop New Albany announced Wednesday it will partner with the city and the New Albany Urban Enterprise Zone to cross promote local restaurants and retailers possibly as early as March.

The entities have pledged a total of $30,000 toward the $40,000 project, which will be administered through the New Albany marketing firm Dudgeon & Company.

31 comments:

RememberCharlemagne said...

"Why not all the people in Floyd County who still don't know downtown exists?"

People of Floyd County do know downtown exists. Some even patron businesses but most don't. I think there are many reasons why this is true, some have to do with certain prejudices, others are well founded reasons, and the bullet in the hood of my car and the bullets lodged in a neighbor’s house gives proof to them, but I think your question highlights current strategies and their possible weaknesses in previous postings. It has all been said before but still needs to be said again and again. You will not see a revitalized downtown New Albany until you see fundamental change in the surrounding neighborhoods. For years New Albany government and business has been serving only their own self-interest. This is nothing new under the sun. Your own testament of spending 18 years trying to attract Kentuckians to discover and spend money in New Albany should cause one to question, would those same years been better spent in creating the very cliental here in New Albany? Even the current promoters of downtown are mostly business owners who are serving their own interest resulting in a stalled revitalization. The recession is playing its fair share but I believe it has more to do with downtown’s surrounding neighborhoods not being able to support the very businesses being promoted. It is only when all aspects of New Albany’s citizen realize that they will need to invest into New Albany’s residents themselves then will New Albany’s businesses reap the yield they so desire.

Iamhoosier said...

I believe that Roger and Jeff(&, prior to his passing, Lloyd)have spent a good amount of time trying to get the city to clean up its act(neighborhoods). Constant calls for code enforcement. Participation in neighborhood cleanups. 2 way streets to slow traffic down(I know that you disagree about the effectiveness but that doesn't alter the stated goal) They've supported initiatives to improve downtown neighborhoods such as S E Jones. And, and, and,...

I guess, part of it is, I don't understand your continued use of "self interest". I'm a little slow on the uptake, so could you please expand on that?

RememberCharlemagne said...

Self interest.

I'm not saying self interest is a bad thing. Everyone has their own self interest.

RememberCharlemagne said...

(I know that you disagree about the effectiveness but that doesn't alter the stated goal)

That is the conversation that is missing Mark. I wish people spent more time speaking on the effectiveness of their strategies; at least that is what I'm trying to do.

Iamhoosier said...

They wrote about and linked several studies that backed their claim. Maybe they cherry picked(although I doubt it)but, still, it wasn't like they just said "This will work" and just left it at that.

You might not agree with their ideas(I don't all the time)but you have to admit that there are more ideas floated by the "owners" of this blog than most anyone else. You have come up with some and try to discuss them but most others are people are just tossing accusations at other people. They have no plans and no ideas beyond "NO".

RememberCharlemagne said...

"but you have to admit that there are more ideas floated by the "owners" of this blog than most anyone else"

I do admit it Mark it's the only place I know of in New Albany to do so.

RememberCharlemagne said...

Develop New Albany board member and local Realtor Paul Kiger said it’s all a process, as successful retail and dining businesses support home sales and other revenue generators for the city.

“You have to sell the city before you can sell the house,” he said.

True, but you have to sale the neighborhood before someone thinks about downtown and when the neighborhoods that surround downtown aren't areas where people with discretionary income want to live they move to neighborhoods elsewhere and they don't come downtown.

Iamhoosier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iamhoosier said...

I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Still, it's not a chicken or egg situation. Most businesses know that, long term, having patrons closer to them is better. The people with discretionary income that you want downtown also want nearby viable businesses--now.

RememberCharlemagne said...

It is the chicken or the egg.


Why do people buy a certain house over another?

Affordability factors into location. You can live where you can afford to live.
New Albany's older urban neighborhoods are very affordable.
Their affordability is a double edge sword. It attracts people who can't afford to live elsewhere, it attracts investors who want to exploit the low cost to invest, and at the same time it attracts people who want to live in an urban area and see its potential and hope to see that potential met.

The latter are a small minority who are willing to look past all the other major issues effecting New Albany's older urban core i.e. blight, crime, high utility fees, older homes, and most of all, for people with children schools, etc. Most of these people are the ones who own and operate businesses downtown. They didn't open the business first and then moved to the neighborhood. They moved to the neighborhood and then opened a business.

For New Albany to expand and maintain an expanded vibrant downtown, for the betterment of all, it has to have neighborhoods that attract the people who want to live in the urban core but can't look past all the negatives and poor quality of life issues that the neighborhoods experience surrounding downtown New Albany. The focus, time, and energy should be how to address these issues even though it might be in our indirect interest to do so.

Iamhoosier said...

I'm not going to get into argument about "most" or "few" or "equal". I still believe it is basically a symbiotic relationship.

I wouldn't buy a house downtown without some walkable businesses to patronize no matter how "safe" the neighborhood was. And, agreeing with you, I wouldn't buy a house in some neighborhoods no matter how many businesses that were close by. I might buy a house on the "edge" of the two extremes with the hope that business and safety grows.

I don't know, maybe I'm the only one who feels that way. If so, you're right and I'm wrong. Won't be the first or last time for that.

RememberCharlemagne said...

Mark, the point is it's not about our own interest it's about others and for New Albany to be a vibrant city for all people you have to set aside our own interest and consider others first.

RememberCharlemagne said...

Remember Mark, you would be willing to kill for me and I would be willing to die for you.

bayernfan said...

"For New Albany to expand and maintain an expanded vibrant downtown, for the betterment of all, it has to have neighborhoods that attract the people who want to live in the urban core but can't look past all the negatives and poor quality of life issues that the neighborhoods experience surrounding downtown New Albany. The focus, time, and energy should be how to address these issues even though it might be in our indirect interest to do so."

You're running for office in my district, so what are your ideas to improve our neighborhood? How do we achieve the thoughts you've laid out?

RememberCharlemagne said...

Thanks for asking Andy, I'm hoping to have a website up to better explain how I think I can help others achieve this. The most important thing I can say now is we need individuals who are willing to take serious what it means to be a representative of everyone in the district. I'm very enthusiastic about the possibility to represent, in my opinion, the most important, diverse, part of New Albany and the part of New Albany that has the greatest potential to make a difference for everyone in the rest of the city.


I'm not trying to dodge the question. I take your question very serious and I want to answer it in the fullest. If you have more specific question I’ll be happy to answer them.

RememberCharlemagne said...

Here is one thing I've talk to Steve Pacciano and Vicky Nugent about but only in passing. The 3rd districit represents a large portion of New Albany's historic district. I would like to see a small grant created out of EDIT that would match up to a few thousand dollar for people willing to maintain or return the historic character of their home. Jeff has such a program and Laura Renwick said it has had a positive impact. I think New Albany's HPC would bennifet greatly with such a program. As a councilman I would work with Matt to develope such a grant.

Iamhoosier said...

Using myself as an example was just that, an example. I don't believe that I'm that far out of the mainstream for this particular discussion.

As you stated, and I agree, there are many reasons a person would want to consider about moving to downtown NA. All I was doing was presenting one factor this person with some "disposable income" would consider. I sincerely doubt that I'm the only one. Of course, neither of us "really" knows. So, maybe, just maybe, my thoughts on this subject are the majority and you need to put aside your interests and consider other's first. I only say that because you seem to insist that you know what that majority is. I think(vs know, because I haven't done a scientific survey)that there isn't ONE magical majority reason. That's why I don't consider it Chicken or Egg. Having to pick, means totally ignoring too much else.

Interesting editorial in the CJ today.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

I vote for henhouse.

RememberCharlemagne said...

"So, maybe, just maybe, my thoughts on this subject are the majority and you need to put aside your interests and consider other's first. I only say that because you seem to insist that you know what that majority is.

Mark, I'm no more insistent than you are. We are discussing. I'm the one advocating the change in self-interested strategies for ones that are indirectly self-interested. Did we get lost along the way? To say things like the "betterment for all" implies considering many perspectives and strategies. I'm advocating and defending neighborhood investment as the quickest way for a sustainable downtown.

I'm glad you brought up the CJ article; I think it gets at what I'm advocating. Louisville has spent millions on downtown businesses only to discover that the investment isn't sustainable without a strong residential cliental. New Albany's focus has been towards downtown, only to have the same cyclical closing and opening of businesses. I don't need an empirical study to tell me this is because of our residential situation surrounding downtown.

The New Albanian said...

New Albany's focus has been towards downtown, only to have the same cyclical closing and opening of businesses.

What has been the nature of this focus? You say that Louisville has spent millions; fine, so what has New Albany spent? The answer is next to nothing. The council's implementation of the riverfront development area was the single biggest factor in enticing bars/restaurants to open. This "cyclical" you mention is very familiar to anyone in the bar and food biz, and although there have been changes downtown, it's probably a better success percentage than usual. But hey -- go on and grandstand, Jameson. I don't tell you how to restore buildings, do I?

Josh said...

"I vote for henhouse."

As usual, Jeff hits the nail on head. This first step in downtown revitalization is not one of marketing, branding, or luring "potential" (i.e.fictional) home-buyers to the community. The first step involves placemaking and establishing urban design standards, which usually makes marketing and branding either effective or unnecessary. The shame is that there is such a lack of a design culture in S. Indiana. Just try mentioning form based codes at a public meeting.

RememberCharlemagne said...

I find it a little hypocritical to accuse me of “grandstanding” when all I'm doing is advocating a perspective. And you're wrong Roger, you have commented on my business affairs before. I didn't accuse you of "grandstanding". I didn't even comment when you did. You are entitled to your opinion, as I am mine.

RememberCharlemagne said...

"place making" "urban design standards"

What would these be used for but to attract those "fictional" home buyers?

RememberCharlemagne said...

I've advocated design standards before, especially for all these homes being, and getting ready to be torn down. There isn't one in place and if the right investor doesn't buy the property there are plenty of investors who don't care.

RememberCharlemagne said...

I've even talked and tryed to get the Mayor and Carl to consider it.

Iamhoosier said...

Why would anyone move downtown(Anywhere, USA)if they have to drive to buy toilet paper?

I could be way off base but I think Josh meant much,much more than just housing design. I'm far from an expert but I think he was alluding to a complete livability design which would include transportation, business locations and types, housing design, etc. Which is what I, rather ineloquently, was trying to say. That's why I don't think it can be a chicken or egg. It's the whole thing.

RememberCharlemagne said...

Yes Mark I know what Josh was trying to say. I attended one of the first FAN meetings where he gave a presentation on similar subjects. He did a good job. I wish I had more time to have been able to asked questions.

I was more or less saying you have to start somewhere.

I'm persistent not insistent

Iamhoosier said...

That you are! VBG

Josh said...

Thanks, Mark.

The problem with the consumer culture mentality of neighborhood revitalization is that the focus is always on the quick fix, or the grandiose scheme that will magically transform communities into whatever slick marketing slogans are cooked up. As if the answer, as ever, is to import some middle class, "creative" white people into single-family homes, install some corporate chains, or perhaps even a nice auto-centric riverfront condo development, and BAM, "We got us a real lively city here, Bubba. We did it, we won." Bullshit.

The problem with branding is that it often serves as a substitute for actual work, a glossing over of real problems in an effort to manufacture an artificial product. "Don't talk about the rats in the neighborhood, you'll ruin our goddamed branding campaign!"

Efforts to market downtown are useless when the city installs utility boxes on street corners that should serve as pedestrian gathering spots in what should be the city center. The real irony is that New Albany already has the basic skeleton to create a real sense of place in the form of traditional neighborhood design, (we are not talking about sprawl repair here) meanwhile, instead of building upon that framework, we dismantle and neglect it.

The solution is that there isn't one. Start with the process and make sure it is from the bottom up, gather data, study best practices, focus on design and explore the interrelatedness of the design flaws concerning stormwater, transportation, retail, crime, housing, etc...Set goals and objectives that involve recreating both the pre-1960 urban form and the pre-existing, natural hydrology. Beautify, fill in the gaps, absorb the water, and most of all, undo the designs that remade the city into a place for cars, when it was initially designed for people.

Then focus on piecemeal, incremental implementation efforts.

Garbage cans on Spring St might be a realistic initial goal.

The New Albanian said...

Josh, I'll be deploying a reworked version of your final comment here as part of a plank. Are you comfortable with a simple attribution? Looks like you're the campaign's urban advisor -- good for a beer now and then.

Paul said...

Question to Josh:

“Don't talk about the rats in the neighborhood, you'll ruin our goddamed branding campaign!" Josh, I’m pretty confident that is not a concern because we have you to talk about rats at any given time. ROCK IT OUT with your message….always nice to have a “neighbor” up-lift me. I’m assuming you own property in the neighborhood??

Josh, solution, etc, etc, etc statement. I personally appreciate all that you have typed. Now, what’s your next step to assist us/me with your Urban Action Plan to make our/my neighborhood pop? I look forward to your suggestions. Feel free to email me at PaulKigerHomes@gmail.com to set up an in-person meeting so we can progress in our progressive neighborhood. I’m always up for a beer as well.
Note: for a prompt response, email works best for me. Feel free to copy and paste, etc.