MANCHESTER, N.H. – What is Manchester’s brand? That is the question that two experts are hoping to help the city discover.
On Wednesday night, Robert Muñoz and Sam Preston of North Star Place Branding of Jacksonville, Fla. took the stage at the Rex Theatre to introduce themselves and the services they hope to provide as part of the city’s branding initiative.
North Star Place Branding was selected through a request for proposals put forth by the Manchester Economic Development Office (MEDO) thanks to the company’s specific focusing on marketing and branding efforts for municipalities, with the company having represented 256 cities in 46 states to date, with Manchester being the second municipality in New Hampshire on that list after Keene.
MEDO Director Jodie Nazaka told the assembled audience at the Rex that Munoz and Preston toured all parts of the city over the last few days, with Nazaka saying North Star’s experience branding for municipalities and their lack of previous knowledge of the area proving valuable.
“It’s very refreshing to hear what their perspectives are, to see what we don’t see,”
Muñoz and Preston used Sun Prairie, Wisc. as an example of what their company’s branding initiatives can do for a community, showing examples of how that community’s character and story were crafted into cohesive and verbal messaging designed to attract new residents and tourists as well as increasing civic pride among current residents.
The pair also provided data from a European study stating that municipal branding initiatives can create a general increased return on investment for real estate sales, infrastructure investments, event success and other benefits.
Preston said that he was impressed with Manchester’s access to amenities, such as the quick trip from the airport to downtown and the nearby availability to natural attractions as well as cultural amenities worthy of a much larger city.
“You folks are absolutely spoiled,” he said.
North Star’s role will seek to solicit information from local residents to then build a brand to help inspire local residents and entice outsiders into coming to Manchester, comparable to the Sun Prairie initiative, with implementation of those recommendations placed upon local officials.
Preston said that previous clients, which he declined to name, saw less than satisfactory results when resources were not placed into those implementation efforts. Nazaka said that will not be a problem in the Queen City, stating that her goal is to create an image within people’s minds when they hear the word “Manchester” like what Portland, ME has with lobster.
“We want when people enter our city that they know they’re entering Manchester,” she said. “There is no reason why Manchester can’t have positive recognitions outside of our community.”
The presentation was received positively by those in attendance such as Alderman At-Large June Trisciani and Manchester Urban Ponds Restoration activist Jen Drociak.
“This was really exciting and engaging, I think Manchester needs a new branding and marketing strategy. I feel like we’ve struggled with our identity and balancing our past with our future” said Drociak. “I think it’s important getting our story out in a consistent and comprehensive manner.”
“We are not without our challenges; however, as a city, Manchester has a compelling story to tell,” said Trisciani. “We owe a huge thanks to MEDO for taking point on this project. This messaging will be key to building our local economy and sharing our story with others.”
The initiative will cost $1.5 million and comes from the $2 million of the $43 million American Rescue Plan Act funding dedicated to Manchester for the sake of helping Manchester’s airport, tourism and business sectors recover from the COVID-19 epidemic. The recommendations are expected to be announced in early 2024, with North Star committed to four years of assistance after the submission of the recommendations as part of their agreement with the city.
More information on the initiative, as well as surveys to provide input toward North Star’s recommendations, is available at distinctlymanchester.com