Public meetings, survey home in on Wichita’s image and appeal

09/02/2014 8:46 PM

09/03/2014 6:04 AM

More than just a phrase, the new Wichita brand should evoke emotion, pride and a sense of place for future generations, a national brand researcher and strategist told a group of about 50 Wichitans on Tuesday night.

That meeting and another, scheduled for Wednesday night from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Wichita Scottish Rite Center at 332 E. First St., are designed to get at the core feelings of Wichita. Participants are asked what they see are the community values, benefits and traits the people of Wichita universally share.

“This will help us develop a strategy and that strategy will help us tell the Wichita story,” said Go Wichita President and CEO Susie Santo. “It is all about marketing the community.”

Six Wichita groups and organizations are joining forces to rethink and redefine Wichita’s brand.

“The idea being once we’ve got all of us telling a similar message, we are stronger and more powerful when we are all telling the same story,” Santo said.

Gary Sherwin and Don Anderson, both with Orange County, Calif.-based Believable Brands, helped lead the audience Tuesday night through a series of questions. Santo said if people cannot attend the meetings this week, they can also take a survey asking similar questions starting next week. It will be available at www.gowichita.com for about a month.

After a four-month process, Santo said, Wichita should have a new brand that can be used in next summer’s television campaign.

“All of us who live in community have our own understanding of what makes Wichita great. We have our own elevator speech we give when someone asks ‘Why Wichita?’” said Barth Hague, associate vice president and chief marketing officer for Wichita State University. “If we can get to a point we are consistent in the way we treat people, the way we talk about ourselves – our message will get heard in a way we might not otherwise.”

But Wichita sometimes has an image problem with its own residents.

“That’s one of the things we are up against,” Hague said. “But even among the people most negative, there is something about the place they really like and if pushed would identify their favorite thing about the city.”

Wichita was praised for its friendly people, commitment to education, and pot-luck community feel. People identified the Keeper of the Plains, the Sedgwick County Zoo and the Wichita-area YMCAs as community assets. They praised the sense of pioneering and entrepreneurial skills the community embraces.

The six groups and organizations supporting the branding efforts are: Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, Wichita Downtown Development Corp., Wichita Community Foundation and Wichita State University.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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