Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

City (and university) branding: brand deposits; brand withdrawals; brand destruction

The various problems with DC's elected officials--one former Councilmember is in prison for stealing; another resigned his position; three officials in the Mayor's election campaign have pleaded guilty to serious violations; plus various other problems (Councilmembers can have "outside" jobs and at least three Councilmembers have jobs which could appear to compromise their ability to be objective and independent on various matters; the taxi payoffs scandal; the Internet gaming scandal, etc.) are an indicator that DC's brand as a well run jurisdiction (if it ever had such a reputation) is under attack.

It certainly undermines the campaign for DC statehood.  Regardless of statements about inalienable rights to organize as a defined state within the United States of America, the reality is that in order to be designated a state, territories had to meet certain criteria and standards.  Basic functioning and ethical behavior and activity on the part of governing institutions have to be seen as foundational requirements almost not having to be defined, because they are so fundamental to the definition.

I wrote in the COMMERCIAL DISTRICT REVITALIZATION FRAMEWORK PLAN FOR DOWNTOWN CAMBRIDGE, MARYLAND that elected officials need to take their responsibilities as stewards and managers of a community's image very seriously:

Just as the study team believes that “we are all destination managers now,” elected and appointed officials in particular and in association with other community stakeholders serve as a community’s “brand managers”—whether or not they choose to think of their roles in this manner.

That means that decision-making on land use and zoning, business issues, infrastructure development (roads, sewers, water, utilities, transit), technology (broadband Internet, etc.) and quality of place factors (arts, culture, historic preservation and heritage, education, public schools and libraries, etc.) must be consistent and focused on making the right decisions, the decisions that collectively achieve and support the realization of the community’s desired vision and positioning.

Recently, I read something that termed this in terms of "brand deposits" and "brand withdrawals,"  how the decisions and actions concerning a brand either make positive contributions and build the brand or the actions are negative and diminish the value of the brand, its reputation, aspirational qualities, etc.

Penn State University is a perfect example of brand destruction, in how unwillingness to notify authorities about the sexual abuse of children by Jerry Sandusky, former assistant coach of the football team, abetted by his association with the team and his creation of a nonprofit "helping institution" that leveraged this association, ultimately could not be hidden, the University's complicity in this was exposed, and now the reputation of the institution is damaged, probably not beyond repair, and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars both in payments to victims and in reputational rebuilding activities.

See the Brandchannel article "Penn State Brand in Freeh Fall as Nike Finally Scrubs Joe Paterno Name" and "Joe Paterno's new legacy: Coach turned his back on helpless boys to protect himself and Sandusky" from Yahoo News.

There is the issue of form versus substance when it comes to the qualities and components of organizational culture that is either positive or negative.  Clearly, both the culture of the Growth Machine/Urban Regime in DC and the way the importance of football dominated Penn State's definition of itself as a university are indicators of serious brand "deficits."


Also see the past blog entries:

- Georgetown: A subtle but important difference between branding and identity-positioning
- Identity ≠ branding or Authenticity is the basis of identity
- Georgetown Retail

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