Berlin, the Brand

In the last week I’ve talked to the mayor, two councilors and and both local economic development directors about what Berlin needs to do in terms of marketing. And I’ve heard comments from other people, most whom see the same problem I do. I must admit I don’t spend much time with people who denigrate Berlin, though I know they’re out there, but still it seems much of the mood is decidedly upbeat.
Mayor David Bertrand said he recognizes the city needs to market itself better, but he isn’t sure where to start. The mayor really has no more power than any other councilor, except in terms of the bully pulpit. His ability to lead the conversation is not significant enough to carry the day. However it seems other councilors understand the need for change, but thus far there have been few ideas.
Council David Poulin suggested changing the city’s seal. A perfect start. What other ideas are out there? Some have suggested the city needs one marketing person instead of two economic development directors. The mayor said there is some merit to that idea; private industry will find its way to the city on its own, if people around the region know about what Berlin has to offer.
Where should the city goes next? What type of marketing should it be doing? The mayor said previous councils relied on the state to do the bulk of their marketing. Clearly that tactic didn’t work. The rest of the state doesn’t have positive words for Berlin, so the city can’t rely on those people to improve its image.
How then? What tools can the city use to improve itself? Would the $25,000 the city pays for a contract development director be better spent on a marketing person? Printed, online, YouTube or Twitter: do any of them offer real promise to the city? How can Berlin get the word out there and change some minds about the future of the city?

5 thoughts on “Berlin, the Brand

  1. Erik, I accept your challenge for us to have a public debate about Berlin's economy and the need to "look over the trees" as you put it. It's fine to talk about marketing and with 30 years of business experience, I understand the value of marketing. Marketing implies that we have a product or service we wish to barter for dollars, but it's not clear in my mind that we have such a product at the moment. I also wish to clarify that my 21/21 proposal is not only about ATV's, it's about outdoor recreation and I accept your list of activities we need to explore. We need to learn to walk before we enter the race of competition with other areas that already have rock climbing etc. As I said ATV'ing and snowmobiling is the low hanging fruit where I believe we can "start" the process of turning Berlin around, it's where we'll get the biggest bang for the buck in the shortest period of time. I agree with you that it's not the end all of the outdoor recreation potential, it is as you say, a sliver.

  2. Thanks for the comment Norm.I disagree, I think Berlin has a product worth coming for. Tim Cayer's business and Heather Piche and Lincoln Robertson's business both prove that. They came despite the city's poor image. If it had a better one even more would come, building the infrastructure the city so desperately needs. But I appreciate that you take the issue seriously.

  3. I'm very familiar with the businesses you mention, having worked with all of them. Having said that, we have to keep the economic issues of Berlin and the region in perspective. My vision is of a product that will have a significant long term impact on the regional economy. Tim, Lincoln and Heather are good examples, but they're the tip of the iceberg to a new economic base. My previous comment was based on the fact that the new economy along with the new image will be a work in progress for a long time before we have a product that someone like Roger Brooks recognizes as "significant and unique". Why people and companies decide to move to a community is a very complex issue that has to do with both facts and perceptions. Our greatest challenge is probably dealing with the perceptions that people have about themselves and the city. I appreciate the fact that you're addressing the issues at that level in your articles.

  4. I still see the city's image as the most important factor. The businesses won't come if they don't first get hooked by something positive. They are being scared away now, and that has to change.It would be pointless to transform the city first and revamping its image second. People think of Berlin today as the same as Berlin 20 years ago. If it takes another 20 years to let people know all the changes the new businesses will fail before the time anyone comes. Berlin has value now and could draw people now. The city would be in a better position to hold the industries it draws if it starts changing that image now.

  5. "Marketing implies that we have a product or service we wish to barter for dollars, but it's not clear in my mind that we have such a product at the moment."I guess it depends what you define as the product. It’s perfectly clear in my mind. It’s the reason I brought my family and business here. It’s the reason people are beginning to discover Berlin as the ideal location for their OHRV recreating. Something you did not see as much of when the mill was running. And it will continue to grow as businesses like mine spend dollars marketing that product to my customer base primarily to our south. But it is the result of that effort which will bring not just customers, but more business looking at the opportunity’s being created. It’s really not that difficult.If you build it, they will come.

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