In my quest to gain deeper understanding of Oskaloosa, Iowa – and to get Oskaloosa Christian School to the table, so Oskaloosa has a better knowledge of OSCI’s value to the community – I was among hundreds of people who attended the “Rediscovering the Greater Oskaloosa Area” seminar on Friday, September 19, 2014. Presenter Roger Brooks offered his “look” at Oskaloosa, Iowa through the eyes of visitors, addressing the following topics – to name a few – first impressions, how to increase sales, business mix, beautification, local attitude, branding, things to see and do, ease of getting around, and lasting impressions . If you would like to read my seminar notes, please read my latest post below. Spoiler alert: I didn’t proofread the text.
“Rediscovering the Greater Oskaloosa Area”
By Roger Brooks, President, Roger Brooks International
Friday, September 19, 2014
George Daily Auditorium
Summary Notes by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian School
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
We’ve been here since Monday. It’s been a great week.
First, we’re going to talk about branding and why branding is important. Then, we’re going to talk about our “secret shopping” in our community.
This is all about Oskaloosa finding your unique selling proposal.
When you go to another community and spend money, that’s called “leakage.” You want to keep local spending local.
Why is this important?
We’re knee-deep in marketing mayhem. Billions of dollars are spent marketing communities and organizations, yet we are drowning in marketing and advertising overload (5,000 a day). We are tuning it out.
Ninety-seven percent (97%) of community-based marketing monies are wasted.
Communities are trying to be all things to all people at all times.
The Internet has changed everything. Ninety percent (90%) of all Americans have immediate access to the Internet. Ninety-four percent (94%) decide where they’re going to go through the Internet.
To win, you have to market the experience before you start marketing the place.
Seventy percent (70%) of people are frustrated by the current state of finding attractions via the Internet.
What experience puts Oskaloosa on the map?
Via Google, people often type in experience first and community next.
What is the experience which sets Oskaloosa apart?
An Internet surfers are not going to find you if you are on page 1,032 of the hits.
What do you have that the people you are hoping to attract can’t get or do closer to home?
If everything’s like home, there would be no reason to leave home.
Why should someone invest in Oskaloosa more than someone else?
Iowa has more towns and cities per capita than any other state in the U.S.
You’ve got to be different or clearly better, according to outsiders, not insiders.
The group hug mentality doesn’t work.
Worse yet is the “membership mentality,” looking inward and not being open to new perspectives.
Welcome to the era of the brand.
Ten Things to Learn About Branding
Logos and slogans are NOT brands. People don’t come to Oskaloosa because of the city’s brand. Beaver, Oklahoma is the “cow chip capital.” Hooker, Oklahoma: “It’s a location, not a vocation.” Gas, Kansas: “Don’t pass gas. Stop and enjoy it!”
At the end of the day, it always comes back to the product, not the logo. Logos are not what brands are about.
A brand is a perception: visual clues, people, attitudes, word of mouth, publicity, social media. Good brands evoke emotion.
Asheville, North Carolina: A city of 85,000. The Biltmore Estate is the largest home in North America. You can fit two Walmarts in the Biltmore. Amazing artisans are downtown. Fine culture meets counter-culture. Their advertising makes you want to go there. Not too long ago, the average age was 60 years of age; now, it’s 34.
Effective brands have a narrow focus. Too much marketing has too broad an appeal. You can’t be like everyone else. You can’t do what everyone else is doing.
You MUST jettison the generic. Look at your taglines, brochures, websites. If it can fit anyone else, toss it, and start over. The narrower your focus, the greater your success will be.
There is power in narrow focus. Something for everyone will ultimately result in mediocrity and failure.
What is that one thing Oskaloosa can promote to separate from other communities. Determine things you can only do in Oskaloosa. Ambiance is important. By the way, historic downtowns are not draws; unique ACTIVITIES in historic activities draw.
Always promote the primary lure of your anchor tenant. How many of you would go to Orlando, Florida if Disneyworld weren’t there? Then, promote the other activities.
Don’t market what you have. Market what differentiates you.
Loose the marketing lists
Your name should be synonymous with your brand.
Country music capital: Nashville. Gambling: Las Vegas. Kids and family: Orlando. Music theatre capital: Branson. Elvis: Memphis. Winery capital: Napa Valley. Frozen tundra: Green Bay.
Hershey: chocolate. Gettsyburg: The Civil War. Washington, D.C.: government. Hollywood: movies and stars. Oskaloosa?
Brands are built on product, not marketing.
Jackson, Wyoming. Population 12,000. The home of Western living. 110 galleries and western living shops.
St. Albert, Alberta, Canada: 61,000 people. Highest taxes in Alberta. They have the largest inside nursery in the world. They grow beauty and attract the arts. They have a beautiful botanic park.
The two fastest activities in the United States are bicycling and gardening.
Never, ever use focus groups, a great way to kill branding efforts.
Keep it simple. Sell a feeling, not a lot of physical attributes.
The effort can’t be top-down.
The 7 phases of public projects:
- Fear and panic
- Search for the guilty
- Punishment of the innocent
- Praise and honor for the non-participants
You can’t come to consensus on a narrow focus.
Never “roll out” a brand. The brand is earned.
Start with a plan. What do you want to be known for? How do you tell the world? What’s the action plan?
You build your brand on feasibility, not local sentiment.
Don’t try to please everyone all of the time.
You never see statues of committees in parks!
- Local politics
- Lack of champions
- Lack of private and public money
Devon, Alberta. Population 6,300. Home of Imperial Oil, the first “planned” community in Canada. They became Biketown Alberta. Paved trails throughout the community, with amazing biking and views. People wear t-shirts adorned with “SPOKESPERSON.” A few people tried to kill the brand. It was nasty. The City Council didn’t want to get involved. I went to do a workshop. I chastised the naysayers. Junior high kids were championing the cause; they won a $25,000 grant. “Grab life by the handlebars.” They can’t keep their logo gear in stock.
What doesn’t work:
Past history. Today is the day you start creating your future.
Past residents of yesterday.
A festival or event. What about the other 364 days of the year?
Being all things to all people.
The best brands are built on private sector investment.
The best brands:
Packaging assets. Round Rock, Texas. The world headquarters of Dell. They became the Sports Capital of Texas. Their activities and facilities attracted more companies to locate in Round Rock.
Lifestyle. Canmore, Alberta. 10,000 people. More Olympic athletes per capita. More climbers who have climbed Mt. Everest. Full bike racks. Kayaks and canoes on roofs of vehicles. Full of sports shops. Weight equipment in public parks. Canada’s winter sports destination. Kellogg, Idaho. 2,400 people. Bavarian village became the Route of the Hiawatha Trail. 15 miles long. 10 tunnels. High train trestles. Spectacular views. People are coming from everywhere. Plenty of restrooms. You coast all of the way down. A bus takes you back uphill! They are promoting the core attraction and so much more.
New category. Ashland, Oregon. Several miles off the freeway. A Shakespeare theater. A dying timber town is flourishing from the arts. The plays are modernized. 6 days a week, 9 months a year. 400,000 visitors a year – at an average stay of 4 nights. The technology industry wanted to be around the arts. Downtown is 100% full.
Repeat after me.
I promise to promote only what’s truly unique.
I promise to be different.
I promise not to repeat what other people say.
We’re here to facilitate the process. The ideas must come from you.
The Step-by-Step Process:
Alpena, Michigan. 10,000 people. On Thunder Bay. The goal is to become an outstanding destination for locals and visitors. And they want to bring their youth back. Iowa has the most educated youth in the country, but they are the biggest exports of the states.
Brand Development Committee of champions. Not a focus group. Private and public sector.
Education and outreach. Get input to weigh-in on Oskaloosa. You have to ask.
Take the survey: bit.ly/brand-osky houses the survey.
Visit the informational websites:
Compile the ideas. Sort what people said. Roger and his people will categorize themes. Greatest assets will be identified. Significantly different ideas will be found. Build your brand on feasibility, not local sentiment to get past the local politics.
Is this something the markets we are hoping to attract can’t get or do closer to home?
Can the community buy into it over time?
Can the private sector invest in it?
How much will it cost, and when will we see an ROI?
Does it have legs? Start with a niche, and then add extensions to the brand.
Can we make it obvious and pervasive in the city?
Will it extend our seasons?
Do we have those who will tirelessly champion the cause?
Identify the markets. Who are you trying to attract. First, get the locals to hang out in Oskaloosa. If they don’t hang out in Oskaloosa, you won’t get visitors to hang out in Oskaloosa. People are looking for an escape, a sanctuary. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans are concerned about stress in their lives.
Create the Brand Leadership Team (BLT). Like the sandwich. They must be 100% enthusiastically behind the brand. Do-ers, not directors. Willing to give time to the efforts. Wiling to take hits from naysayers. They will be protective “brand cops.” More than half should have a vested interest in the brand. They are the voice of the brand. Good speakers. Not politically divisive in the community. Act as a steering committee for brand-related projects. They will never take no for an answer. Load the team with people in their 20s, 30s, and young 40s. The future of Oskaloosa resides in their youth. One of two people will drive everyone else.
Develop the product which backs you up. Sanctuary. Hotels. Spas. Learning opportunities. Retreats. Public market. Rename parks to fit the brand.
Roger will be on-the-ground to facilitate the process.
Write the brand promise.
Create the look and the feel of the brand.
Develop the action plan. A to-do list of who will do what by when and with what resources.
Make something happen. Deliver on the promises. Pole banners. Gateway sign. Trail signs. Rename parks. Everything should revolve around the distinctive.
Keep the energy high, and don’t fold with opposition from CAVER’s (Citizens Against Virtually Everything)!
Do it. The efforts will take off. Get off the best kept secret list. What kind of community do you want to live in?!
Revisit the plan every couple months.
Here’s to your very bright future in Oskaloosa!
Be patient, passionate, persistent, and ready for a little bit of pain.
It’s not about yesterday. This is about tomorrow. You want to live with your new brand for decades.
Assessment Findings and Suggestions
By Roger Brooks International
We’ve worked with 1,000 cities in 45 states. every province but one in Canada, and Western Europe. We have a 100% success rate, because we keep politics out of it.
The assessment was thorough – 60 key elements.
We had nothing in advance of our visit. We were first-time visitors.
There will be a report. This presentation starts the conversation.
It’s time to develop a wayfinding system. Directional signs.
Promote the point of differentiation. You can stop, shop, play, and stay anywhere. Find your niche, and put that niche on the sign.
Always put your auxiliary signs where people can stop and read times and locations.
The empty gazebo should include visitor information. Make your gazebo worth something. I have no idea why this gazebo and parking lot are there.
Your wayfinding should also include trail signage and maps.
You can do better than “Recreation Trail.” Make it an attraction. How about “Sanctuary Trail”?
Provide information about renting bikes for the bike trails. Keep people in Oskaloosa longer. Staying for two hours doubles spending, and overnight stays quadruple spending.
Design, fabricate, and install a decorative and attractive wayfinding system. Include electronics and search engines.
Watch the videos, i.e., “The Art of Developing a Wayfinding System.” Just wayfinding systems improve sales by 18%!
Instead of shrubs, use annual color. Shrubs hide words on signs. “Pride, Progress, and Tradition.”
Same with the William Penn University sign.
Get rid of signs which read, “WARNING: Drug and Alcohol Ordinances Strictly Enforced.” You are not inviting to visits.
Develop 24/7 visitor information. When people arrive in a community, 81% of people use brochures. You might get people to stop. Import more cash.
Install several kiosks in key locations. Something is better than nothing. Inexpensive. William Penn. The Square. Chamber Office. Edmundson Park. The golf courses, Fairgrounds. Race track.
Purchase a portable kiosk for big events. Take the information to where the people are. It’s inexpensive.
Watch the video about the kiosks.
The Chamber Office should be a key place for information along the exterior wall.
Take the time to add content to TripAdvisor. The current attractions are only 3 in number, including Stix. You want 3 more Muscos here. All companies come here as a visitor. It doesn’t look like you have much to offer.
Signage should be visible, i.e., TASOS is barely visible on the restaurant. Use contrasting colors.
Promote your anchor tenants. Create an accordion brochure. Highly regarded by someone other than themselves. Good curb appeal. Open year-round. Open until at least 6:00 p.m. Open 6 days a week. Unique to Oskaloosa (not chains). Don’t let local politics kill this effort.
Autumn Acres was nice. Gateway signs were nice, but what do you see after that, i.e., entering from the west on 92, seeing the sign, and seeing a vacant restaurant.
Beautification creates great impressions. Little things make a difference.
We saw cool abandoned buildings. Could Vennard be an “artisan village”?
Great hospital. Very nice. You have an exceptional medical facility. Good curb appeal.
There is no sign for this beautiful B&B.
No more than 5 items on a wayfinding sign.
Here is a log cabin. What is it? There is no interpretive sign. Tell the story of the log cabin. Get people to stay.
The water park is very nice. This creates a good impression.
Add a brochure at the disc golf course.
Add a sign about public play and 18 holes, with club rental and car rental on the outside. Add a WELCOME sign. Add some curb appeal.
Is there a restaurant in the golf course?
The Creamery is cool. We stopped in. We bought.
Curb appeal can account for up to 70% of first-time sales at restaurants, golf courses, wineries, etc.
In St. Albert, the city paid half of the beautification expenses.
Add shrubs for curb appeal.
804 décor has great curb appeal, but it’s hard to find. Market this as a core attraction.
William Penn looks fabulous. How can 1,000 or so students spend time downtown? Connect them better to downtown – a downtown for them.
Add “COMING SOON” sign to place of demolition and construction – an invitation to come back. This is a missed opportunity on the William Penn campus.
We noticed outstanding lighting everywhere.
We got a map in the downtown area.
We figured out how to get to the Fairgrounds. VERY nice.
Add an upcoming events at the race track.
Amazing sports fields and facilities. This looks like “Field of Dreams.”
Add signage to the construction at the Lacey stadium.
Dollar General is not a good major tenant for a mall.
A hair salon as a tourist attraction?! It’s listed as a tourist attraction digitally. NavTeque does these maps.
The Nelson Pioneer Museum is beautiful. Welcome to OUR Museum is good wording for a sign.
You have 2 of the 450 Frank Lloyd Wright homes in existence.
There are a lot of terrain changes – stunningly beautiful.
We were impressed. Oskaloosa is great.
What is the future of Caldwell Park? When?
Musco is world famous.
We had dinner On the Green. It was great. They were nice. Good service.
We went downtown for the focus of the next day.
The heart and soul of every community is the downtown. The health of the downtown is the health of the community. There are 400 successful downtowns with 20 common ingredients for success.
You can make downtown stunningly beautiful. Pretend Downtown Oskaloosa is Carnegie Hall. Something’s got to be happening in Carnegie Hall AND Downtown Oskaloosa. What’s in the buildings is what makes the business.
Downtown should be a primary economic driver.
Where do people go hang out?
Import cash. It starts with local spending.
Watch the video, “The 20 Ingredients of an Outstanding Downtown.”
Two-hour parking is a way to kill a downtown. It dramatically reduces spending and repeat visits. We wanted to spend more time downtown, but we had to keep moving our vehicle to (presumably) avoid tickets. If someone gets a ticket, the person writes you off. You want people to spend a lot of time in downtown. If you insist on 2-hour parking signs, add signage where longer parking is permissible.
The band shell is a beautiful icon.
Your downtown architecture is beautiful. The downtown has potential.
In three lineal blocks, you need a minimum of 10 places that sell food (soda fountain, coffee shop, etc.), 10 destination retail shops, and at least 10 of those open after 6:00 p.m.!
You need a mall mentality. Consistent hours and days. Open late into the evening hours. Like businesses grouped together (clustering). Recruit anchor tenants. Central gathering place. Something people come out of their way for.
“Quilting Queen” on NBC News (Hamilton, Missouri) Jenny. YouTube videos are available. ANCHOR TENANT. They’re building hotels and restaurants around one lady!
When auto malls are grouped together, they do seven times the business!
If you had 35 restaurants in downtown, you’d have people coming from Des Moines.
What do you want to be known for. Antique stores? Jefferson, Texas has 125 antiqu dealers in a town of 2,500. They’ve got B&Bs.
Blade signs need to identify the shops for people who are driving. Put on the sign what you’re selling, not the name of the business. No lower than 7’. No higher than 9’. No wider than 42”. Change the ordinance, if you need to.
Signage says a lot about you. Signs should be beautiful and professional, not junky. Signage should be welcoming.
Promote the primary lure on the signage. Don’t make it a mystery.
Add incredible breakfast and lunch menu on the Smokey Row wall to attract more business. Locals know. Visitors do not know.
A skate shop in a health clinic?!
Create invitations, not rejections.
Increase curb appeal. The shops should be colorful, the signs appealing. Scarecrow festival in October attracts thousands of visitors in this town.
Extend window displays to exterior spaces in the outside.
Never more than 4 window signs. More than that, it makes your shop look junky. Simplify. Make it easier for people to understand unique situations.
Get rid of all Closed signs. State when you will be open. Open signs say, “Come back!” and Closed signs say, “Go away!”
Think benches. You should have 30 or 40 benches. They should always be at the façade facing out.
Benches should be flanked with foliage.
This has to be a public-private partnership. Looks like the Oskaloosa city is trying to do its part. What about the merchants?
Open the doors to be more welcoming.
Jaarsma is a fantastic place, but the curb appeal is lacking.
Add benches, benches, benches.
Consider a retail assistance program for curb appeal, window displays, etc.
We judge by look. The restaurant might be good.
Where are the sidewalk cafes? We’re moving to European standards. Lose a couple parking spaces to provide outside tables. Bring downtown to life. We’re eating and shopping later at night. People eating outside make walkers want to go inside.
Add beautification to the exterior of the Smokey Row.
One merchant provides free ice cream to children who sit at the table outside the shop.
Paint the exterior of buildings to fool the eye about beautiful 3D images. People will come from miles to have their pictures taken.
Add street trees along Market Street. Light ‘em up at Christmastime. Use ‘em for shade in the summer. Business will go up.
Your square is a perfect plaza. Make it a place where you hang out. Line the plaza with restaurants, retail, etc. Lit splash pads for children. An ice rink in the winter, with skate rental. Movies on the square in the summer. We want out of our car. Give young people places to hang out. Seventy percent (70%) of consumer spending takes place after 6:00 p.m. Are you open?! The youth will come back.
Watch the video: “Are You Open After 6:00 P.M.?”
The days of the traditional mall are dying.