How did we seek out a municipal branding expert?
Our initial conversations about the importance of establishing a formal brand message for the City of Kaukauna began in early 2019. While the City as a whole is invested in this process, conversations were largely born from the Planning and Community Development Department. Our department (Planning and Community Development) has the most outbound engagement on new business and residential development with out-of-area investors and developers. We often give area tours to potential investors and are asked for summary information on what our community has to offer. We knew we could provide higher quality information that spoke to what our community represents with a new brand.
It was essential to the process that we had support from elected officials to fund a branding initiative. A little less than 50% of the branding initiative was funded through the municipal budget process (funded through tax levy). The other 50% of the branding initiative costs were funded through one of our Tax Increment Districts. Marketing and economic development expenditures are permissible under state statute for tax increment districts, and we felt strongly that this project would help strengthen our economic development marketing. As the municipal budget took shape last summer, we shared information with elected officials on why we felt that the time was right to move forward with a branding initiative. We then began our search for an expert in municipal branding.
We released a Request for Proposal in the fall of 2019 that closed in early November 2019. We received responses from firms ranging from small to large and from as nearby as in the Fox Cities and as far away as India.
What were we looking for in selecting a firm? We wanted to work with a firm that had extensive experience in municipal branding. We wanted that firm to showcase their experience in community engagement since engaging the local resident and business base was very important to us. We created a scoring system that we used for all applicant firms. Scoring measures included areas such as municipal branding experience, methodology and timeframe for brand development, prior design work, years of staff experience, planning related to brand implementation, price point, the size of the team we’d be working with, connections to Wisconsin, and in-house offerings that might be related to this project. Three project reviewers scored the applicants independently and our scores were then averaged. After scoring all of the firms, we chose to move forward with a face-to-face (using technology) interview with the top five firms. Of those five firms, we chose to have a second interview with two.
The firms that we interviewed were highly qualified, and many of them have worked on projects in the state of Wisconsin. We moved forward with our finalist, Guide Studio, out of Cleveland, Ohio. We truly feel confident that Guide Studio is a perfect fit for the City of Kaukauna, and we have had such a positive experience working with them thus far.
So why did Guide Studio rise to the top out of two dozen national candidates?
Obviously, they scored highly enough on all of those measures listed above to merit not one, but two interviews! Guide really stood out to us as a candidate for three reasons:
- Guide Studio has extensive experience in working with Midwest communities of a similar population size. We wanted to know that a community of our size was a traditional sized client for their team – and that the nuances of a City that is neither a large metropolitan area nor a tiny rural setting would be understood.
- Guide Studio focuses on the implementation piece – not just on the design. Once our branding consultants pack up their computers and go home (once the brand is designed), it’s up to us as the municipality to implement our new brand into our organization (on signage, vehicles, digital and physical communications, etc.). We have never had such a significant undertaking as changing our visual identity, and we wanted to know that Guide would offer us a helping hand in planning how that implementation rolls out. Guide is dedicating an extensive amount of time with City staff to figure out how to get implementation right.
- Guide Studio has extensive experience in wayfinding design. Wayfinding is a fancy way to describe informational signs that tell you how to get to destination points in a community. We have orange signs throughout the City that label our City parks and point to destinations. Many of these signs are over two decades old and are in varying states of disrepair. In our capital improvements plan, we have budgeted to replace and update our wayfinding signage to better reflect our community destinations and to incorporate our new brand. We hope to continue our working relationship with Guide Studio in this next phase of using our brand in running an effective municipal organization.
We’ll introduce you to Guide Studio more formally in a future blog post so you can get to know a little bit more about the people working with the City of Kaukauna on our brand development.
You can follow along with updates throughout the branding process on our website: www.kaukaunabrand.com.