Executive Director's Corner

Dave Wills

Dave Wills

Finding Value in Branding Your Local Government

Go ahead. Describe your county. In doing so, I would guess you will accentuate the positive things that, in your opinion, make it a great place to live, work and play. But obviously each county is different. From the mountains in north Georgia counties, to expansive farms, flatlands and swamps in southern counties, from major ports in coastal counties, to inland ports in counties along the Chattahoochee River, from the world’s busiest passenger airport in Fulton and Clayton counties, to Air Force bases in Cobb, Houston and Lowndes counties, a wide variety of differences exist among them. But it must also be admitted that many counties have done little to distinguish or differentiate themselves as a means of attracting or fostering population and economic growth. Yet we all know from our own experiences that a name, a symbol, a brand can be extraordinarily valuable.

Businessdictionary.com defines brand as a “unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Some of the most recognizable brands in the world are among the most valuable. Picture the symbols or logos for Coca Cola, Google, Apple, John Deere, McDonalds and UPS. You were able to do so because they are ubiquitous.

Have or can Georgia counties successfully brand themselves, offering advantages that might not otherwise be achieved? Are the following familiar to you: The Golden Isles; Carpet Capital of the World; Chicken Capital of the World; Hotlanta; Alpine Helen; Home of The Masters; Home of the 39th President.

While not every county has the benefit of being home to the king of an industry, to a former President, coastal recreation or any of the other features that distinguish the counties referenced in the aforementioned list of slogans, every county almost certainly can distinguish itself in some manner through a branding campaign. But why do so?

It is important to remember that counties are subdivisions of the state government and their core purpose is to provide required services to citizens. But most, if not all, county commissioners are interested in pursuing prudent opportunities to enhance economic opportunities in their respective counties and, in some cases, in multi-county ventures such as was the case with Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties when they jointly created the Stanton Springs Joint Development Authority, property of which became home to one of the largest developments in Georgia in recent years, Baxalta/Shire, a global leader in biologic medical therapies. But one should ask a basic question, “What distinguishes my county from any other?” In that regard, branding could make the difference in garnering attention from prospective developers and others interested in learning more about what a county has to offer.

I do not claim or profess to be an expert on branding, but in my former role with ACCG in which I consistently traveled the state week after week for almost nine years, it was obvious to me that some counties benefited from a concerted effort to promote themselves. And in some of those cases, branding was a critical component in their work.

As you contemplate how your county might take advantage of a branding exercise, read the stories titled “What's in a Name? County Rebranding Initiatives” by Rebecca McCarthy and “Centralizing Communication Efforts” by Chris Floore to learn more about and how to benefit from the experience other counties have had in branding or rebranding themselves.

So why should your county consider branding itself? Because there is value, real and potential, in doing so. I look forward to seeing your county’s brand prominently and proudly displayed, drawing desired attention to your unique county!