How do you sell Colorado Springs?
According to Peter Olson, former marketing committee chair of the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., you focus on some real, if little-celebrated, strengths.
"We are an incredibly active community," he says. "We are one of the healthiest cities in the country. It's not just Bible-thumping, retired people who live here. We are trying to push to being a metropolitan center."
Olson was one of the young creative professionals who showed up Monday afternoon at the offices of Experience Colorado Springs, the convention and visitors bureau, for a meeting with members of Mayor Steve Bach's city branding task force. The topic, of course, was the one-week-old branding strategy, which has been met with disappointment and derision since its unveiling last week.
On Facebook, two local designers started a "Rebrand the Springs" page that has drawn 600-plus followers. Meanwhile, the Independent opened up a community contest, offering modest financial prizes for the best locally created branding work.
On Monday, more than a dozen young design professionals — exactly the kind of people that Bach repeatedly has said the city wants to attract and engage — turned out. Sitting in the back of the room, they listened as the CVB's Amy Long outlined the research that went into the branding.
And one of their most vocal members — and co-leader of the Facebook effort — Tucker Wannamaker, assured Long that they're "behind the branding effort that has happened."
"It's a lot of work; it's a lot of digging," Wannamaker said. "In fact, a lot of what you came up with is awesome."
He pointed to the task force's three descriptors for Colorado Springs' "brand character": Vibrant. Rugged. Exceptional.
"I love this," he said. "It's really good."
But here, his colleague Marcus Haggard wondered: How do "vibrant, rugged and exceptional" translate to "Live it up!"?
That's a complicated question. As Long pointed out, the $111,000 process has involved lots of people, and has been "a long haul."
"Some people have been working on the brand for 10 or 15 years," she said. "Myself and some people in this room have been working on it for five years, and the task force has been working on it since March."
Dave Norton of Castle Rock-based Stone Mantel, the contractor for the rebrand effort, told the crowd that the slogan for Anchorage, Alaska — "Big Wild Life." — wasn't well-received at first, either.
"But in Anchorage, they stuck to it," he said. "They worked at it and they worked at it, and they got better with what they were trying to do."
Few attendees Monday seemed interested in sticking with it. Olson pointed out that a comment on a Denver-based blog suggested that the city's logo be two M-16 machine guns pointed at each other, with a cross in the middle.
Young professionals, he indicated, are always looking for help in "defending our city."
"We are constantly dealing with this stigma," Olson said. "When the brand came out, and it was very generic, and it had this generic tagline, we were like, 'This is hurting our cause.'"
"So what do we do?" asked Wannamaker. "Because we want new creative."
The next step, said Experience Colorado Springs president and CEO Doug Price, is the task force reconvening after the Thanksgiving holiday to discuss how to move forward. He assured the crowd: "This has not fallen on deaf ears."