Find your center: Branding process identifies Lewistown’s uniqueness

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

Local graphic designer Krista Nowak's Lewistown logo was adopted by the branding group to help identify their products.

Photo courtesy of  Chris Cooler

After six months and many meetings, Lewistown has a brand. No, not that kind of brand. This branding has to do with what the town is known for.

Since April a committee of 12 has been working to identify what makes Lewistown unique, and wrap those points of differentiation into Lewistown’s brand.

After a lot of work, the committee narrowed Lewistown’s key assets down to two: its central location within the state, and Spring Creek.

 

Developing a brand

According to nationally known branding expert Roger Brooks, whose methodology the local branding committee followed, a brand is a perception.

“It is what people expect they will see and experience when they are in your area,” Brooks wrote in a 2011 article, “10 Things You Need to Know About Branding.” “It is your promise to your customer or visitor, and tells them what they can expect from your products and services; what differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

Lewistown Art Center Director Mary Baumstark, who served on the branding committee, sees branding as a way to communicate “our values and who we are in a bite-sized way.”

“We did a lot of work listening to the community,” Baumstark said. “We read through 600 surveys to find out how Lewistown sees itself.”

 “Our goal is to bring new dollars to the community,” said Lewistown Downtown Association Chairman Chris Cooler, who was one of the leaders of the branding effort. “We need to be able to present a unified message that rises above other voices when people are considering where to travel or move. Branding helps us say what is unique about us. It helps reach a certain demographic, and encourages them to come here.”

Cooler said the group identified people aged 30-40 as a key target audience.

“Young families, whose kids will grow up here and who might want to work here, is a key demographic,” Cooler explained.

 “I think the brand is great,” said Connie Fry, executive director of the Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce. “When people see it, it sets the town apart. It connects with people.”

Fry said she found it hard initially to let go of the “Heart of Montana” logo that has been used in Lewistown for years.

“Ever since I got here, it’s been the ‘heart’ of Montana,” she said, “but I realize we need to differentiate from Great Falls and other places that call themselves the center of the state. I think this does that.”

 

Using Lewistown’s brand

Both Cooler and Baumstark point out identifying the elements that make Lewistown different from other places is not the end of the branding process.

“Now we need to create products to go with the brand,” Cooler said. “It’s not just a slogan and a logo.”

While print ads and videos are already in the works, those aren’t the products Cooler means.

“Creekside Park is a good example,” Cooler said. “It’s experiential. The trails along Spring Creek are part of it. Basically we build around the brand. The slogan ‘Find your center’ could mean a lot of things. Proximity and access to natural resources is a big piece, but it’s not the only piece. Finding your center could mean quilting, or taking a class in pot throwing or enjoying a great meal. The slogan tells people what they can expect here, but then it’s up to us to build experiences around that.”

“We’re hoping community members will embrace the brand,” Baumstark said. “But really, it’s based in how the community already sees itself. We pulled from hard data and from interviews with community members who work with the public.”

Cooler, who donated a lot of the branding footwork through her businesses, WestWind Web Solutions and Enjoy Lewistown, said the group will continue working on marketing Lewistown using the new brand.

“We have about 60 short videos that showcase Lewistown, which we’ll post online to support the ‘find your center’ brand, and we’ll be giving presentations to businesses and community groups to show them how they can use the brand, too,” she explained.

Cooler said she also has four videos from branding expert Brooks that talk about revitalizing downtowns.

“We may set up public viewing times for those, so people can see how branding helps with downtown revitalization,” she said.

Cooler said it’s lucky the group had access to the Brooks tutorials and was able to undertake the branding process without hiring an expert.

“If you bring in someone like Roger Brooks, it can cost $50,000 to $80,000,” she said. “We were lucky in that some of the work had already been done, and we had a good committee.”

 

 

Branding Committee members

Chris Cooler, Lewistown Downtown Association/ Port Authority

Jennifer Saunders, Lewistown Downtown Association

Mary Baumstark, Art Center

Patty Thompson, Arts and Entertainment District Board

Connie Fry, Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce

Abby Majerus, Heart of Montana Venture Network

Stephanie Prater, Central Montana Medical Center

Jeana Morrison-Noel, LDA

Holly Phelps, City of Lewistown

Sandy Youngbauer, Fergus County

Carly Wheatly, Snowy Mountain Development Corps.

Alana Kuehn, Rotary

 

 

 

 

 

 

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