County Approves Branding Study Plan and Tagline: ‘Los Alamos County … Live Exponentially’

Community Brand Supervisor Adam Winstead of North Star Destination Strategies in Nashville, Tenn., presented the results of his branding survey for Los Alamos County Tuesday night in Council Chambers. Council voted 7-0 to accept the results of the North Star Branding Plan and direct County Administrator Harry Burgess to return to Council for approval of a County logo as well as the branding implementation plan within 12 months. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

County Councilors hear the results of the branding survey conducted by Community Brand Supervisor Adam Winstead of North Star Destination Strategies in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Staff Report

The results of a branding study conducted by North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville, Tenn., who specialize in brands for municipal governments, was approved 7-0 by Los Alamos County Council Tuesday evening in Council Chambers. As part of the approved motion, Council directed County Administrator Harry Burgess to return to Council for approval of a new County logo as well as the branding implementation plan within 12 months.

“Here in Los Alamos, we welcome those who are looking for opportunities and experiences that are exponentially greater,” said Community Brand Supervisor Adam Winstead of North Star Destination Strategies during Tuesday’s presentation. “Because people don’t just settle for the easy solution here – we continually strive, attempt and achieve. That is the heritage, and ongoing nature, of Los Alamos County, defining everyday life and the entire culture of the area. A unique place in the high desert – in the entire country – where possibility is infinite and the probability for happiness is high.”

The Council approved the contract with North Star Jan. 15, 2013, which included a term of Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, with one optional one-year renewal and funded from Economic Sustainability Funds in the amount of $50,000 plus GRT and $5,000 reimbursable expenses to cover the cost for the following services:

 

BRANDING APPROACH
North Star Destination Strategies used a three-point Community BrandPrint™ Process based on 1) the Vision of the Community; 2) the Competitive Situation; and 3) the Perception of Consumers and Influencers develop the County’s “most distinct promise”-a promise that can be embraced and delivered by our community; and that is compelling to people we want to come work, live, visit and play.
 
RESEARCH AND PLANNING PHASE (Jan-Sep 2013)                        
 
In-Market Research
The In-Market Research was conducted January-June 2013 and included the following tools: 1) Situation Analysis, 2) Research and Planning Audit, 3) Communications and Media Audit, 4) In-Market Interviews, 5) On-Line Community Survey, 6) Resident Tapestry Research. The purpose and process for each tool is described below.
 
Situation Analysis.  The first data collection task involved the completion of a questionnaire designed to provide North Star with a better understanding of the Los Alamos communitmarketing/organizationalonal structure from the various groups that are expected to drive the branding initiative. The Contract Manager completed sections and distributed other sections to both County staff and outside organizations to complete.  
 
Research and Planning Audit included North Star’s review of relevant studies, reports and plans, including the Economic Vitality Strategic Plan, Economic Development and County annual reports, the current Comprehensive Plan, Management Action Plans (cultural and recreational, and branding and marketing), County vision and goals, as well as external documents like the Creative District Master Plan.
 
Communications and Media Audit included North Star’s review of all existing marketing materials for the County and area attractions, including printed pieces (e.g., visitor guide, high altitude sports post cards, trail maps, tourism advertising, economic development packets, attractions brochures); videos (e.g., Ambassador Training video and quiz, Bandelier Shuttle video); websites (e.g., visitlosalamos.com, losalamosnm.us, lanl.gov, tripadvisor.com, and wikipedia.org); social media pages (e.g., Los Alamos Travel Insider and County Facebook pages), and contracts (e.g., the Visitor Operations and Management, Visitor Promotions and MainStreet contracts).
 
In-Market Interviews were conducted March 12-14, 2013 by the North Star Brandprint™ Manager Adam Winstead and Ed Barlow. This “site” visit to Los Alamos included tours of attractions, businesses, neighborhoods and available land, as well as six focus groups (50 individuals) and nine one-on-one interviews with County decision makers and staff, as well as members of the business community and other community stakeholders, including: County Departments (CAO, Communications and Public Relations, Community Development, Community Services, Economic Development and Human Resources), County Councilors, the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce businesses, Los Alamos National Laboratory communications representatives, the Economic Vitality Action Team, MainStreet Futures, Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board, the Next Big Idea Planning Committee and the Creative District Advisory Committee.
 
The North Star team also conducted “community intercepts,” observing and interacting with the community on the street, at local restaurants and other businesses in order to collect additional Los Alamos community perception insights. Key community perceptions include: recognition of the Lab as an economic driver, the need to diversify the economy in addition to the Lab; abundance of and ready access to outdoor recreational opportunities and major attractions; quality education, safety, strong cultural community; the need to attract commuters to reside in the County; and the lack of affordable housing, entertainment, nightlife, retail/restaurants.
 
On-Line Community Survey. This survey was deployed on April 9, 2013 via surveymonkey.com.  Not included in the original scope, this research tool was offered by North Star at no extra cost, as an additional means to solicit perceptions from the general population of Los Alamos County. The 10-minute survey was posted on the County’s Economic Development page and distributed via e-mail to commuters, scientists and post-docs that work at the Lab, as well as individuals with no connection to the Lab who live and/or work in the County.  Initial settings that prevented more than one person to take the survey from the same computer were lifted within 24 hours based on feedback received from County employee participants, as it was determined that the risk of one person submitting multiple survey responses was low and the restriction would dramatically limit response. The survey was open for 17 days, closing at 5 p.m. April 26, 2014.
 
The 703 responses, far exceeded the 200 average expected from a municipality of our size with a statistical significance of +/3.62 at the 95 percent confidence level. The Community Brand Barometer is a measure of resident satisfaction and advocacy that was determined by the collective response of all 703 participants to the first question of the Community Survey:  “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being highly likely, how likely would you be to recommend living, visiting, and conducting business in Los Alamos County to a friend or colleague?” Los Alamos County scored third highest in North Star’s community Brand Barometers for 2013 as a place to visit out of 50+ other communities. Los Alamos County scored 2.7x the national average.
 
Resident Tapestry™ Research. North Star employed the Tapestry™ system, a trusted, proven provider of geo-demographic research, to create a resident profile to understand shopping patterns, media preferences, behaviors, lifestyles, preferences and affluence levels of County residents.  For the “Resident Profile,” the geographic boundaries of Los Alamos County were used to define the population and then data was securely obtained from various sources like shopper loyalty cards, credit card data and census information and synthesized to interpret “types” of people that live in the County.
 
External Consumer Research
This phase included a mix of four different qualitative and quantitative pieces conducted to gather external perceptions of the County from regional residents, visitors and non-visitors, regional and state level professionals in economic development, tourism as well as site selectors, developers and more.
 
Visitor Tapestry™ Research.  North Star commissioned a “Regional Profile” to comprehend the shopping patterns, media preferences, behaviors, lifestyles, preferences and affluence levels of residents identified as most likely to visit or be attracted to Los Alamos County.  Counties selected by North Star in consultation with the County were Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Taos, Sandoval, and Bernalillo Counties.
 
Outside Perception Study was conducted on-line via e-mail to individuals who either work in Los Alamos County but commute to the area for work, or work outside of Los Alamos County but have some familiarity with the area. County Economic Development Division provided e-mails from current databases, as well as area contacts. Due to privacy policies observed by Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, the online survey was made available via mass e-mail, which was a factor that most likely inhibited response. Responses from Los Alamos County residents received and replied to the survey were screened out. The majority of the 79 total responses collected were from Lab employees that live outside the County, the majority in Santa Fe.  
 
Consumer Awareness and Perception (CAP) Study was an on-line survey conducted by a third-party distributor commissioned by North Star in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas to gain insight into consumer awareness, familiarity, visitation, and perceptions of Los Alamos County.
With a target response of 200, 210 surveys were collected with a statistical significance of +/-6.76 at the 95 percent confidence level. 96 percent of respondents had visited the County for business and to explore area assets like Bandelier and Valles Caldera. 82 percent of respondents consider themselves to be somewhat familiar with the County and 18 percent “very familiar.”
 
Perception Study. North Star conducted 25 telephone interviews with regional economic development, tourism and government professionals identified by County staff. The purpose of the Perception Study was to gain an in-depth understanding of the brand perceptions of Los Alamos County among important target audiences.
 
Competitive Analysis. North Star, in consultation with the County, identified Los Alamos County’s competitors in terms of geography, population, economic development/tourism target markets and national laboratory presence. Competitors include: Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Albuquerque counties in New Mexico; Boulder and Jefferson counties in Colorado and Coconino County, Ariz.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. and Tri-Cities, Wash.  North Star conducted a communications and media audit of each competitor’s online presence, straplines, brand elements, marketing messages, and visuals additional analysis to better understand area competitor brands and to ensure that the brand identity for Los Alamos County will be distinct in the marketplace.
 
INSIGHTS (JUL-OCT 2013)
 
Upon completion of the Research and Planning Phase, North Star reviewed all data collected and conducted an internal session to develop insights based on significant research patterns and findings. Research results were evaluated with the goal of identifying the collective community conscience, cohesive community identify, highest use of available resources, business and resident recruitment/retention, gross receipts-all of which are influenced by how a brand triggers behavior and usage. Through a set of insight questions, the North Star team developed the County’s brand storyline,” and then synthesized it down to a single sentence:  the Brand Platform Statement. The Brand Platform is intended as a filter for the formation of creative concepts and implementation initiatives in the creative phase of this project. It is not ad-copy or a creative statement; however, all communications, actions and product development should connect to the essence of this relevant and defining statement.
 
Sept. 27, 2013, North Star presented the County staff its “Understanding and Insights” Report, including highlights of research findings and the Brand Platform Statement, including target audience, frame of reference, point of difference and benefit (see Attachment A). The Brand Platform Statement was finalized based upon County review and input.
 
CREATIVITY (NOV 2012-APR 2013)
 
The County’s approval of the Brand Platform Statement triggered the beginning of the creative production stage when the North Star team transformed all the data and high-level strategies into tangible creative products that embody the brand, including: straplines and creative looks with targeted marketing messages and advertising, digital design and content recommendations (web portal, social media), collateral materials, stationary and color palette.
 
At this point in the process, the County assembled a Creative Review Committee to participate in the review and selection of the written concept, strapline and creative materials produced as part of the Brandprint™ process.  In order to allow for adequate time for creative development and review process, the County executed the one-year extension provision of the contract with North Star.  The Branding Creative Review Committee is comprised of Harry Burgess, Julie Habiger, Kelly Stewart, Greg Fisher, Anne Laurent and Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan from the County, along with LACDC Executive Director Scott Randall, RE/MAX of Los Alamos owner and realtor Kendra Henning and LANL Communications Department Director Lisa Rosendorf.  The committee met three times (Dec. 17, 2012, Jan. 10, April 14 and 15, 2013) and provided input to the selection of the preferred narrative, strapline and creative “looks.”
 
North Star developed four different written creative interpretations, each with its own conceptual narrative and “strapline” (the industry term for a tagline or slogan that is intended for broad and lasting implementation). The Brand Narrative uses descriptive language of Los Alamos’ assets to help residents, businesses, influencers and consumers connect and embrace the emotional story of the brand to their own lives.
 
Based on the brand narrative and strapline selected by the Brand Creative Review Committee, North Star developed a Brand Identity Guide, presenting two distinct “looks” in the form of taglines and/or graphic images and several custom deliverables that target the County’s specific goals. The graphic interpretations selected by the Brand Creative Review Committee were presented at Tuesday’s Council meeting on May 6.
 
FINAL REPORT
 
The Final Brandprint™ Report (Attachment B) compiles a summary of the brand development process, including some recommendations for evaluating brand performance once it is launched.
 
NEXT STEPS
 
The following actions are needed and recommended to bring the brand to the market and generate measurable results.  
 
Develop Brand Action Plan. Commission the development of a strategic plan for implementing the brand within the County, the community and target markets.
 
Execute Brand Creative. While the Brand Action Plan is being developed, the County will immediately initiate the process to secure a contract with a professional marketing/design firm to provide design and marketing services to implement the brand.  Services include the design of the logo or “mark” and all of its applications for branding as prescribed by the Brand Action Plan, including marketing, advertising, public relations applications based on the brand platform statement, written concept, strapline and creative looks provided by North Star’s Brandprint™ process.
 
Launch Brand.  Upon completion of the logo, creative applications and marketing plan, the brand will be launched per the Brand Action Plan.
 
Evaluate Brand Performance.  North Star’s Brandprint™ Report recommends the following actions to measure brand performance.
 
1.      Immediately:  Identify and/or build e-mail databases targeting prospective visitors and businesses, as well as local residents and businesses.
2.      Post-Launch (6 months):  Consult with North Star Research Director to develop plan for measuring brand performance moving forward.
3.      Post-Launch (1 year):  Consult with North Star to determine specific measurement goals, including re-measuring awareness and perception of the community by target audiences.
 
In addition, the following research tools employed as part of the Brandprint™ development process are recommended to be repeated post-launch at the one year mark:
  •       Resident and Visitor Tapestry™ Profile
  •       Community Brand Barometer
  •       Online Communitywide Survey
  •       Consumer Awareness and Perception Study
Fiscal and Staff Impact/Planned Item
Recommended next steps will be managed by Economic Development and Communication and Public Relations staff and funded through the approved FY15-16 Economic Development budget.

The branding survey results suggest the tagline ‘Live Exponentially.’ Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

The new theme continues with ‘Exponential Ski Pass.’ Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

County Administrator Harry Burgess explains that several County staff members together with several citizens reviewed the results of the branding survey and made modifications prior to Tuesday’s Council meeting. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

From left, Community Brand Supervisor Adam Winstead of North Star Destination Strategies in Nashville, Tenn., listens with the County’s Kelly Stewart and Julie Habiger as County Administrator Harry Burgess briefs Council on the branding survey process. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

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