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Minneapolis Neighborhoods Show Best Community Branding Comes from Community, Not Marketers

When Aberdeen has finally resolved Mayor Schaunaman’s conflict-of-interest scandal and the Chamber of Commerce reopens bids for updating our city branding, perhaps they can take notes from Chris Lautenschlager, who leads two neighborhood associations in Minneaspolis and who says community branding only succeeds when it comes naturally from the community:

Lautenschlager, who leads the Nicollet Island-East Bank Neighborhood Association in addition to Marcy-Holmes’, said he’s had enough conversations about names with residents, developers and the city to know what makes a rebranding initiative work.

One-off ideas by developers or business leaders with big marketing campaigns often fail, he said. A campaign by a Minneapolis-based realtor to rename the area that encompases Surdyk’s as well as portions of Hennepin and St. Anthony Main as “Old Town,” for example, hasn’t showed signs of gaining traction in the community, he says.

Such efforts are often “the idea of one person, or they’re the idea of a consulting team,” he said. As such, “They don’t [create something] organically over time through the community.”

“I’ve never heard anyone refer to East Town, the incarnation of Downtown East, without laughing. … There’s always a chuckle there, whenever people refer to ‘WeDo,’ West Downtown — that doesn’t make any sense.”

Instead, names that fit with the community — or ones that residents think of themselves — seem to stick, he said. That’s because people throughout Minneapolis place so much identity on their neighborhoods’ label and image; only community-driven efforts to reinvent areas’ prevail [Jessica Lee, “From WeDo to East Town, Why So Many Neighborhood Branding Efforts in Minneapolis Go up in Smoke,” MinnPost, 2019.09.10].

Instead of paying some marketing “expert” to concoct some creative reinterpretation of a community, we need to let a community speak for itself with its actual amenities and identity. To that end, it seems Aberdeen would be wise to save its marketing money and stick with the “Hub City” moniker that has declared with reasonable accuracy Aberdeen’s real function and merits as the biggest, bustlingest town in a 120-miles radius.


  1. South DaCola 2019-09-16 15:12

    The city of Sioux Falls is in the middle of a rebranding. They hired a firm from out of state that will of course come here and create ‘focus groups’. Dumb.

    As a person who has been in marketing, printing and graphic design for over 25 years, I still don’t understand why you need a focus group to create a logo.

  2. Debbo 2019-09-16 17:51

    Minneapolis’ mayor wants a more robust identity for neighborhoods and consequent businesses and activities. He’s leaving exactly what that means to each neighborhood.

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