When I’m not working at Bluewater (which I only do 3 months out of the year), I attend the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. When most people think of Richmond, they probably imagine a place living in the past, its identity so deeply imbedded in its rich colonial history that it can’t escape.
Once the capital of the Confederacy, home to the world-renowned Jefferson Hotel, the world headquarters for Marlboro, as well as hundreds of pre-industrial era mansions, there is no denying that history is a large part of what the city is. But there is also a new Richmond; a creative, eclectic atmosphere filled with wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurants, indie music shows, and blossoming young artists. Sadly, this side of Richmond is virtually unseen by outsiders.
In an effort to change this perception and draw more tourism and residents, Richmond is currently in the process of rebranding. This campaign is called “RVA Creates,” and is headed by downtown booster group Venture Richmond. Richmond’s VCU Brandcenter created the RVA Generator, an online tool that allows residents to upload images to be placed in the “RVA” logos one can find on the back of cars, signs, windows, etc. The goal of this campaign is to merge the old identity with the new one in an organic fashion so natural that it will seemed to have emerged not from Venture Richmond, but the streets of the city itself. The RVA website describes the initiative as “Sort of a brand, without the catchy slogans and formal rules that accompany most brands.”
In this lies an important truth of branding: brand image can’t be forced.
In order for a brand image to be powerful and effective, it must not only truly reflect the organization as whole, but also live within each individual part of that organization, stemming from each part and intertwining to create and support an image that is true and powerful while also influencing who they are. Branding is more than just selling a name to drive revenue; it’s a way to create an identity that comes from an individual, to connect with individuals. The city of Richmond is using its residents to connect with individuals around the country to change the way the Old South is seen by others and itself.
What’s your favorite brand to connect with? Why? What about their identity and message appeals to you?