While sitting for their first in-person meeting since early March, members of Newtown’s Board of Selectmen still used virtual means to hear a presentation about a new and planned community branding initiative that will be managed by the Economic and Community Development Department.
Broadcasting remotely into the Newtown Municipal Center’s Council Chambers, Jeni Bukolt of the Haven Creative agency spent about 30 minutes relating the back story and mechanics by which the town could start utilizing images and color schemes to reinforce connections between residents and visitors, and economic and community development campaigns and activities.
“Branding isn’t just a logo or tag line,” Bukolt explained, rather it is a platform on which to build or strengthen perceptions — in this case about Newtown. That is accomplished by not only using components like a logo or tagline, but also colors, typefaces, and words that trigger responses and emotions that viewers may already be thinking or feeling about the community, however unconsciously.
“When you have a brand platform positioning messaging, you can positively shape the perception of residents, businesses, and visitors looking to do business in Newtown, move to Newtown, and so forth,” she said.
The goal of the campaign is to build positive perception, and the branding campaign is accomplishing that in a multistage program that includes pre-launch surveying that was accessible to all Newtown residents, identifying key stakeholders and business associations, and interviewing participants in greater depth, Bukolt explained. The next step would be to circle back several months after the branding campaign launches to analyze its effectiveness as well as determine how to tweak the campaign for even greater impact.
Data will also be culled from metrics gathered through a new, centralized website that combines the functionality of several separate websites, as well as social network pages that the town currently hosts to promote economic and community programs.
Attracting Business, Newcomers
As this branding campaign is led by the Economic and Community Development Department, there is also keen interest in utilizing rebranding to help attract business and homeowner investment in the community.
Across the statistically relevant 485 respondents, Bukolt said 42 percent have lived in town more than 15 years; 76 percent are not Newtown natives, 57 percent were between age 45 and 55, and six percent identified as not residing in town despite the fact that they were participating in the survey.
“We got a nice range of respondents for this survey,” she said. Across those surveys, the most prevalent word used to describe Newtown and its population was “friendly.”
“Not everybody says their community is so welcoming and inclusive, and those were the characteristics that kept coming out,” Bukolt said. Another top identifying element that endeared respondents to Newtown is its green spaces, and an overarching passion for preserving Newtown’s more rural than suburban environment.
She also said the community was correlated with “convenience,” which could play a more immediate role in helping officials who are working to attract new businesses here. There was another more prevalent perception that Newtown is somewhat less formal or exclusive than some neighboring towns.
“We’re more welcoming, more inviting, more family-friendly,” Bukolt said.
Another component of the presentation involved adopting the town seal’s most attractive aspect — the rooster — into the new branding campaign.
“Sixty percent of respondents said a rooster should appear prominently in any branding and logo deign marketing Newtown,” she said.
Respondents also preferred Newtown to grow its economic base by promoting smaller businesses like boutiques and specialty shops, versus large big box retail, and by attracting high tech enterprises like data centers, health care, light manufacturing, along with opportunities for family entertainment and activities for teens and young adults.
The team at Haven Creative also tendered ideas about developing specific color schemes to accompany a new logo. Those colors could be sprinkled consistently throughout various imaging so that in time, residents and even visitors would know various marketing or promotional pieces were related to Newtown even before they saw or read any text or messaging.
‘All Are Welcome’
The platform suggested a brand archetype that defines a “personality” associated with Newtown and its spectrum of marketing and branding materials.
“That messaging is ‘all are welcome here’ in Newtown,” Bukolt said, adding that such a platform would particularly attract “dreamers” who hoped to open businesses here, and “doers,” like families who come to the community looking for a home.
All of that input also generated what Bukolt called a “brand story,” which she summed up as, “For dreamers who are passionate by nature, doers who are driven by nature, Newtown offers a unique retreat from the city where small businesses and families can grow and thrive by nature.”
This marketing narrative would lead visitors through the new website and other materials, and would also serve as a marketing pitch.
“This is what you would use to describe who Newtown is for, and what you have to offer,” she said. In closing out the presentation, Bukolt said another important step moving forward with the various branding concepts and materials is coordinating and assigning a “brand manager” who would spend 18 critical months doing everything possible to integrate the campaign materials into widespread use locally.
Economic and Community Development official Christal Preszler said the rollout of the new branding materials and internet presence would happen gradually, possibly starting out with something as simple as stickers with the new rooster logo and related messaging, as well as integrating the new branding and colors into web and social sites.
“We want people to be intrigued at the thought of visiting or relocating to Newtown,” Preszler said.
Land Use Director George Benson and First Selectman Dan Rosenthal both expressed appreciation for the creative work to date.
The first selectman said while a new logo is not replacing the official town seal, “It’s flexible and adaptable.”
“I think they did a good job capturing the essence of what community members feel,” Rosenthal said of the overall presentation.
This logo was presented to the Board of Selectmen on September 8 by Jeni Bukolt of the Haven Creative Agency, which is assisting the local Economic and Community Development team in crafting a community branding initiative. It is not intended to replace the town seal, but to complement informational and marketing materials, according to First Selectman Dan Rosenthal.