Too soon to brand Greensboro

Apparently Action Greensboro has set up another committee to “brand” our city. As a young leader and participating volunteer, I’ll have to say: Don’t bother.
Why? Just take a look at past history. Winston Salem tried it. DIdn’t go anywhere. Greensboro has tried it with Greensboro Connects. Where did that go? Nothing seems to work. So why is that?

I believe that the Business Journal article on GSO branding was put best by James Patterson of Webb Patterson Communications.

“Branding is something that gets a little overused, I think.”

No kidding. Branding is a signficant waste of time when you have no product. Build the product and then you have something to brand. You can’t do it simultaneously. It’s like if Nike tried to brand the swoosh before there was a shoe to sell. Nike would be.. well.. not Nike. Marketing firms? Lay off. While perhaps they’re out to help the community, I personally would imagine that they have a secondary agenda to land a city contract. But for what purpose?
It bothers me that simple logic such as this is escaping the leaders. You have to build the reputation of the city, and work on the looks and business growth first. Don’t get ahead of yourself or it’s a waste of time and money. And everyone knows that in a corporate world, a waste of time and money equates to a bankrupt business. Try using the time to grow the downtown area. Perhaps get some awnings that match for downtown businesses (similar to the Grove Arcade area in Asheville). Try increasing incentives to locate more businesses and restaurants downtown like Winston-Salem does. You need critique? I’m sure there are plenty of people that live downtown that would be willing to blanket you with very upfront critique.
Branding? It’ll come. Maybe in a couple years. Depends on what sort of city image you we build. But at this infant growth stage, it’s like trying to decide if a startup corporation needs a pension plan. We already wasted a million dollars in the marketing campaign fund for Greensboro Connects. Good idea, but way too early. Don’t jump the gun to throw more money down the toilet. The time will come.
UPDATE (8:26PMEST): Ed Cone echoes many of my thoughts in his N&R article from 9-24.