Provo’s branding will need to broadcast unique aspects of the city’s character. But what really makes Provo unique? What does the city have that other neighboring communities do not? If the branding is going to be spectacular, it must reflect a spectacular community. So what makes Provo singularly spectacular?
The answers people give to those questions are legion and endlessly varied but, I think, often miss the mark. Provo has mountains, a lake, trails and other outdoors opportunities — all of which should be more heavily marketed — but so do a lot of other surrounding communities.
Specific events like the Freedom Festival are wonderful, but only happen once a year — hardly enough to draw multiple permanent businesses and residents from across the state and country.
These things should all be a part of Provo’s brand, but to really be successful the city certainly will need more. Successful branding, after all, does need to capture something unique.
In this post, I link to an article on Cleveland, for example, that shows certain marketers actually embracing the fact that the city’s river was so polluted it caught on fire. That’s definitely unique. Similarly, on a recent trip to Seattle, I saw t-shirts encouraging people to “Ride the S.L.U.T.,” which refers to the controversial South Lake Union Trolley. Again, that’s unique, if nothing else. Uniqueness doesn’t have to focus on seemingly negative things, but these examples show just how important it is for a city to highlight what makes it special.
One possible candidate for something that makes Provo special is BYU. It’s big, it’s a good school, and it’s already one of the things Provo is known best for.
On the other hand, Provo has long been linked to BYU and that connection seems to have taken the city as far as it can go. As the map in this post demonstrates, Provo is losing a reputation — and therefore economic — battle with Ogden. Personal experience suggests the cause is at least in part due to Provo’s (unfair) reputation as merely a squeaky clean Mormon-ville. Moreover, I’ve argued many times on this blog that Provo suffers from a “mystique” problem, and I think that problem stems in large part from the false perception that BYU is the only player in town. (Indeed, the objective of Provo’s rebranding might be described as rhetorically complicating the city’s relationship with BYU.)
So what is it that makes Provo great? Why should businesses relocate here? Why should creative class professionals select Provo — and select it over Salt Lake City or Ogden when confronted with the choice?
I have a few ideas that I plan to share in a coming post, but in the mean time feel free to share you’re thoughts.