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Manchester branding effort looks to community to tell the city’s story


Manchester: A city in search of a renewed sense of identity. File photo/Stacy Harrison

Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to reflect that the branding contract with North Star Place is for $140,000. As a clarification, the city has a total of $1.5 million to see out the effort which could include things like billboards, way-finding signage, digital ads, etc. We strive for accuracy and appreciate corrections!

MANCHESTER, NH – The city and its new branding partner have gotten “a lot of great feedback” as the first phase of the Distinctly Manchester effort unfolds, and residents can continue the momentum, Jodie Nazaka, Manchester economic development director, said Friday.

An online survey will post in the coming days on distinctlymanchester.com seeking input from residents as marketing company North Star Place puts together a branding strategy for the city.

Nazaka stressed that the official branding message will come directly from the community. “This isn’t us sitting behind a desk deciding it,” she said.

The survey, other events and news on the website, and a form people can fill out to get involved and become a “Manchester ambassador” are opportunities for the community to become part of the process, she said.

North Star Place Branding, which signed a contract with the Economic Development Office in March, is spearheading the effort, and was in the city the week of May 22 to get initial public input and begin the first phase of the project. 

The four-year contract for the Jacksonville, Florida-based company is for $140,000, part of the $1.5 million allocation for rebranding which includes infrastructure, signs, ads, and other elements, as well as a continuing assessment of strategy and methods. Something that is a great marketing move now, may not be effective three years from now, and North Star will adjust message delivery as how people engage evolves.

The company also will gauge community advocacy and perception of Manchester outside of the city, across the state and region, and whether the branding effort is moving the needle. Marketing will be adjusted depending on the measured impact.

“It’s an integrated marketing strategy,” Nazaka said. 

The community has already shown a willingness to be part of the process. The consultants last month toured the city, held one-on-one interviews with business owners, residents and elected officials, and held an informational meeting for the public.

Nazaka said North Star representatives talked to about 100 members of the community. She said that usually, for a city Manchester’s size, the first visit makes about 75 contacts.

“We’re off to a really good start,” she said.

North Star will be back in town at the end of the summer to drill down on specifics, and have a plan to the city by January. The second phase, next year, will include the rollout of the marketing plan.

The fact the company is from out of state is a good thing, Nazaka said. That means they come in with a clean slate, a view that’s not skewed by biases or past impressions of Manchester. The plan will reflect input from people who live, work and own businesses in the community and the story they want to tell the world about the city. Among other things, as residents talk to North Start reps, fill out the survey and offer other input, the company builds a story, focusing on repeated messages it hears.

One message that has resounded so far is that Manchester is resilient, with a respect for its history, but the strength to bounce back and start new as things change.

Nazaka said, “That’s definitely something the residents of the city [have emphasized], the perseverance of Manchester.”


About this Contributor

Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is a contract reporter and content producer for consumer financial agencies. She has worked for northern New England publications, including the New Hampshire Union Leader, for 25 years, and most recently at Mainebiz in Portland, Maine. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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