Saturday, March 05, 2011

St. Louis firm on Salinas' image campaign: 'We brand the people'

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A St. Louis marketing firm hired pro-bono to improve Salinas’ image announced today they welcome the challenge and will be looking to the city’s residents to help them succeed.

“We brand the people,” said Mark Vogel, senior partner with Avant Marketing Group, the company chosen by the council.

“Without the people, you’re just another point on a map,” he said today.

Mayor Dennis Donohue and Economic Development Director Jeff Weir held a brief press conference at City Hall to introduce Vogel and Avant partner Kate Lammert to the city.

The event comes just an hour before a council meeting where Salinas’ elected leaders are expected to approve an agreement outlining both parties’ responsibilities in the branding initiative.

Avant is required to, among others, conduct focus group meetings, develop a brand platform, logos and taglines, and carry out its “Living the Brand” training.

“We all know ‘I love New York’ is on everything and everybody buys them,” Weir said. “We’re going to outdo them.”

The initiative also includes identifying markets to target, trade-show development, and addressing the city’s negative perception.

Record-setting gang violence in recent years has largely been attributed to Salinas’ image problem.

“When folks look closely on Salinas,” Donohue said, “they like what they see.”

Avant was chosen by a divided council Jan. 11 among a handful of branding consultants, including over Salinas-based TMD Creative Marketing by Design company.

Citing Avant’s significant track record in marketing national and international companies, however, the council chose the Midwest firm – agreeing with the marketing ad-hoc committee that unanimously recommended the company for the job.

Avant has developed brands for government-related organizations including the USDA and Fed Source, the business brand for the U.S. Treasury’s Franchise Fund.

Although Avant helped form the “Tough As Texas” phrase, Vogel said, Salinas is the company’s first project focusing on a specific municipal entity.

Also, Avant will cover all expenses; the approach includes a retail component that allows the company to sell merchandise. The consultant will collect a share – 80 percent in the first year – of revenues generated by the sales until it is phased out in five years.

According to the proposal Avant sent for the initiative, the company estimates the cost of its work at $62,275, which includes out-of-pocket travel and accommodations expenses.

The company, however, expects to generate a cumulative income of $134,000 over a five-year period.

Vogel said today, after the council approves the contract, Avant will meet with Weir to outline the next steps for his team. This includes conducting and completing one-on-one interviews with residents and focus groups by April 15.

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