Say Something Good

I read that the City of Amsterdam has hired a marketing firm to help brand the city and craft a new slogan to replace the current “One Community Many Cultures”.
I wrote this piece about the productization of Amsterdam so let me pick up on the product theme as the product itself is so vital to how it’s marketed. As I think about the current slogan and look at the current product, I get what the slogan says but I don’t get what it means. Sure, we’re a community and yes, we have many cultures. But what does the slogan convey to me that makes me want the product? I’m not sure.
I sense this disconnect because I don’t see how the many cultures manifest themselves. No doubt Amsterdam possesses a rich cultural legacy and certainly we have a diverse community but I do not see an exceptionalism in the manifestation of the cultures within Amsterdam. I think slogans need to be authentic to the product, so when we say “many cultures”,  how do we distinguish that trait from other cities in the area? What makes us different from our competitors?  I just don’t know from the slogan.
It’s this disconnect that really needs to be addressed because a slogan becomes meaningless if the slogan has no bearing to making buyers want the product. After all, the only purpose of marketing is to sell the product: it’s not slogans, it’s not Web sites, it’s not a brochure– all that is meaningless if you can’t sell it.
A long time back, the marketing campaign for Amsterdam had a slogan of “Say something good about Amsterdam”.  I’m not sure you could ever choose a worse slogan– as that slogan truly suuuuucks. First, the slogan tells you, in no uncertain terms,  that consumers think the product, Amsterdam, sucks; why else do you have to “say something good”  other than to counter the bad things being said.  This is akin to a tobacco company campaign rolling out a slogan of: “Say something good about lung cancer”. Second, the slogan is built on a delusional marketing notion that if we just say the product is good, the product will magically transform itself into a salable product and all the criticisms directed by consumers of your product will go away. While this may work for product scams or gimmicks, it’s not a way to build a sustainable, viable product.
I looked at the portfolio for Zone 5, the marketing agency hired for this effort, and they strike me as a talented, accomplished firm. So the purpose of the above in no way implies that they will follow in the same footsteps to developing a strategy and campaign; I’m quite doubtful of that happening. And I also do not mean to imply that we do not have a viable product or a viable marketing strategy for the city. Far from it.
I only revive this bit of marketing trivia to underscore the essential purpose of marketing — selling the product– versus the tactics of marketing. At the same time, we cannot deny that the product matters too. What I hope evolves from this process is a real understanding of the market(s) for Amsterdam and what the product for those markets will be and should be.
I think this process is the only way to really get a meaningful marketing campaign and slogan. I think it’s too soon to talk about slogans like “Small City Big Heart” without really understanding the market and product. I’m going to resist my puerile, snarky instincts to riff off of the ‘small’ and ‘big’ and instead return to the mission of marketing– selling. While ‘sales’ of our product can’t be measured in units sold, we must establish meaningful metrics to gauge our marketing progress and success. How else will we know how we’re doing?
I think this process is vital and critical to the future. I’m curious to see what evolves.

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5 Responses

  1. nygirl says:

    I think what is also vital to this process is determining a positioning that projects how we want to be seen and what we want to become. Let’s not just sell what we are, but what we want to be. I think this is an underlying problem here in Amsterdam — we can’t look down the road at the future, can’t see the big picture (you can apply this to many issues — WEM being one). However you want to phrase it, we need to move towards something — instead of trying to stay one step ahead of what we’ve become.

  2. Ann M. Thane says:

    FYI:
    The following information is provided by Zone 5, so that you get a clearer picture of what we are doing to kick off our marketing efforts. I believe we’ll hit the mark.
    Thank you for the continued balanced editorial.
    Best wishes. A.
    ZONE 5 – BRANDING AND MESSAGING STRATEGY
    Brand Development, Positioning and Messaging
    As we see it, there is a need to define the Amsterdam “brand”. Every business or organizational entity has a brand identity, and given the level of competition in today’s business environment, Amsterdam needs a point of differentiation that speaks to its strengths and assets, as well as builds upon the values of the city. The goal of a successful brand is to increase awareness among the city’s target audiences–prospective companies and individuals and referral sources. The development of the brand is therefore a key component in the creation of any marketing materials, and will become the foundation for all of Amsterdam’s future marketing and communication efforts.
    Fast Track Input Sessions
    We will begin by meeting with the city’s key team members to “fast‐track” their experience and knowledge in each of the city’s services and practice areas to obtain consensus on objectives and priorities. We will conduct a SWOT assessment (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) of the city, and determine the needs and wants of your various target audiences. The intersection of these concepts is the opportunity area for the city. From this foundation, we can begin to develop effective marketing and web messaging.
    Competitive Audit
    An important part in shaping a brand and developing effective marketing communications is to identify and understand the competition inhabiting the same market space we are trying to reach. We propose to audit competing regions/cities with the same services and sectors as Amsterdam to learn more about how they portray their own brands, learn about the business issues they’re addressing, and how they speak about themselves. This data will be critical for us as we work to differentiate your brand from its competitors.
    Branding Deliverables
    With the results of the competitive audit in mind, we propose to conduct a branding exercise with key staff to uncover the brand “essence” of the city. For example, components that help make up Amsterdam’s brand essence include; the city’s culture, its approach to promoting itself and it’s value proposition to the prospective company or organization. From this exercise, we will develop statements that will position the city in each of its target markets. The branding exercise will focus our tactical thinking and ensure that all marketing materials and activities are consistent with the development of the brand as it relates to each industry sector, with the ultimate goal of promoting the city to prospective clients and the public.
    Final deliverable is a brand and messaging guideline, including:
    • Identification and prioritization of target audiences (prospective companies, residential prospects, the media, etc.)
    • An understanding of their unique needs and wants
    • Key, compelling messages for each
    This phase will also provide a strong platform for the web development project, by efficiently informing navigation and structure as well as content.
    Branding Strategy for the City, Urban Renewal, AIDA and Empire Zone
    Before we can begin to develop tactical materials, we need to establish a brand hierarchy and the new brand look and feel for the city and its affiliated entities. We anticipate that the City and these departments will require logotypes to be revised or developed for each. Together, we will establish the relationship of these organizations to the city and develop appropriate brands with graphic standards for each. As a part of this, we will work with the city to first examine whom it is that you’re trying to reach. There are several combinations of audiences: potential companies, referral sources, the local community, the media and prospects (in various fields). The new brands need to be relevant to all of these. Based on initial research and interviews, our team will develop a matrix to organize and determine messaging strategies for each of these segments.
    Develop the New Brand Positioning Statement
    Think of a positioning statement as a summary of your mission, vision, principles and policies–with one key distinction–the positioning statement is truly differentiating. This statement is something that no other area can say. We frequently use the positioning statement as a “testing tool” for all future communications as well as business decisions. “Is this on‐brand?” During this step, we will develop the positioning statement for the city, including the attributes and characteristics of the brand. This statement will help position Amsterdam as the parent organization which administers and “owns” the services and sites that the organization has responsibility over. The positioning statement will be further distilled and delivered in the form of a tagline–something that is clear, easier to use (from a marketing perspective) and shorter to say. A tagline can be a powerful “rallying cry” for employees as well as a call to action for prospects.
    Messaging Strategies
    Our next step is the development of messaging strategies to determine how we should speak to the city’s audience segments including: Nanoelectronics, Biomass, Biofuels and Aerospace, as well as the audiences including
    Semiconductor Manufacturers and Semiconductor Supply Chain companies. These messaging strategies should support and position Amsterdam, and promote the services offered, as well as the city’s assets, features and benefits. We will identify the emotional connection and compelling messages for each as it relates to the specific assets you should promote. These strategies will guide development of concise and effective copy to be utilized across all collateral, from web site and video to printed pieces.
    Mayor Ann M. Thane
    City of Amsterdam
    61 Church Street
    Amsterdam, NY 12010
    518.841.4311
    mayorthane@choiceonemail.com
    *Confidentiality/Privilege Notice*: This electronic mail transmission is intended or the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed. It contains privileged and confidential information, which is protected by executive, and other, privileges. If you are not the intended recipient of this e-mail, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or taking any other action with respect to the contents of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify the sender immediately by return e-mail and delete the original message. Thank you for your cooperation.

  3. metoo says:

    I don’t know what this firm, Zone 5, will accomplish. This has been done before under Mayor Duchessi…Visioning, SWOT, whatever kind of strategies they profess they want to perform, or the Mayor wants. Under D they went to every neighborhood and surveyed those for their input one on one and NOTHING was accomplished, so what makes anyone think this will be any different, except to waste money.
    We would all like to see change, however, why throw away money repeating the same old methods. Will someone not look for the old surveys and build from there. It has only been 8 years since this survey was accomplished and the reports were given, things that the citizenry envision or want have not changed that much.

  1. October 7, 2008

    […] October 7, 2008 Say Something Good — Reader Posts Posted by flippinamsterdam under Uncategorized   I’m going to highlight two comments on the post Say Something Good. […]

  2. November 25, 2008

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