Downtown network board hears from marketing expert
Camden — On Dec. 3 members of the Camden Downtown Network Board heard a presentation from a communications expert about the benefits of branding and marketing a municipality.
Nancy Marshall, owner of Augusta-based Nancy Marshall Communications traveled to Camden to present to a group of about 20 people in the Tucker Room at Camden Opera House. Camden Development Director Brian Hodges said he arranged the presentation following approval of the prioritization of goals from the Camden Downtown Master Plan by the Camden Select Board on Nov. 27.
The goals were set by the Camden Downtown Network Board, a group comprised of representatives from the Camden Economic Development Advisory Committee, the Camden Downtown Business Group, The Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce and town of Camden staffers.
Hodges said the Camden Downtown Network Board is aimed at garnering input from multiple facets of the community.
"It's kind of getting at that idea of public and private collaborations," he said.
The select board unanimously approved the goals and recommendations set by the downtown network board, according to previously published reports.
Hodges said one of the priorities is developing a branding, advertising and marketing strategy for Camden, and he called on Marshall — who he said is a colleague — to provide a free presentation on municipal marketing strategies.
Marshall works with clients in both the public sector and private sector, said Hodges. She has worked with Maine towns including Sanford and Madison, and has a continuing relationship with the Maine Office of Tourism.
Hodges said one of the major "take-away" pieces from the presentation is the goal for Camden's development of a brand. He said Marshall asked attendees to consider who they wanted to attract, be it businesses, residents, visitors or conferences.
He said Marshall asked attendees for their immediate association with the Napa Valley, or the Poconos, before asking what immediately comes to mind when considering Camden.
Hodges said Camden's long-standing slogan — "where the mountains meet the sea" — is a good slogan, but lacks the focus and intent necessary to achieve a solid brand association.
"What does that slogan really mean?" Hodges said, "if you take someone and plop them down in the middle of the Midwest, will they think of Camden [when hearing the existing slogan]?"
Hodges said that portion of the presentation was "eye-opening to people."
"There's nothing wrong with the motto, but it's something we can expand upon," he said.
While the Dec. 3 gathering was more presentation than discussion, said Hodges, he added CEDAC will likely continue discussing the direction of the branding of Camden at a Dec. 17 meeting. He explained CEDAC will eventually make recommendations to the select board for final approval and those recommendations may include hiring a firm to assist with marketing and advertising.
Hodges said one of the primary concerns of the Camden Downtown Network Board is that Camden's character be preserved, and that branding the town not result in it appearing as "any town."
"There was one word that was used a lot [on Dec. 3], and that word was 'authentic,'" Hodges said. He added that authenticity could be a part of the branding strategy implemented for Camden.
Hodges said Marshall discussed the concept of a "message map." He described the message map as a tool for getting "key players" within a community on the same page and "singing the same song" about the town. The goal for a message map, Hodges said, is to work together toward a common goal; for example, attracting entrepreneurs. He explained that a message map isn't about homogenizing a community.
"We may all convey a similar message," Hodges said. "But that message is that we're unique."
Hodges said the downtown network board will now work to define the brand that best conveys what Camden is about on a global stage.
"We have legwork to do ourselves," he explained. "We can't take for granted that we know what our brand already is."
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org