City launches branding program

DOWNEY - The Downey City Council earlier this month greenlit a nearly $57,000 branding initiative in an effort to develop a recognizable Downey image, establishing the city as a classic Americana town embracing its newfound multiculturalism.

Downey Art Vibe, which operates and manages the Stay Gallery, will spearhead the initiative, known as Discover Downey -- a scope of work that includes drafting advertising concepts, marketing strategies, media services, and a branding implementation plan.

"The 'look and feel' of a brand matters, especially that of a city's. It's the first impression that people will have when getting to know our city," said Valentin Flores, executive director of Downey Art Vibe.

"The very essence of Discover Downey is to get people more involved in all things Downey, from discovering our local culture, our history, to all the opportunities our city has to offer."

Downey Art Vibe has already created a new city logo and launched, which now features a promo video of the city, highlighting some of its key landmarks.

"The production of the promo video changed everything," Flores said. "During the process of design the new logo, we knew we needed to show people what the new look and feel was through a commercial.

"We wanted to put iconic people in iconic places and give people that 'Downey feel.' What happened was that we ourselves were forced to Discover Downey."

City officials say the new branding effort is a vital marketing tool to promote Downey by showcasing the city's true strengths and identity in order to foster economic opportunities, cultural growth, and community pride.

"This branding initiative is designed to encourage residents and businesses to learn about the many things that make Downey unique," said Mayor Fernando Vasquez on Wednesday. "Stay tuned Downey, as we continue fostering this Renaissance movement with our art, culture, economics, and history."

In 2010, the city hired Northstar Incorporated to develop a branding model for Downey. After 24 months and over 600 surveys, the consulting company released a report indicating the city's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and the best way to achieve a consistent, unified brand going forward.

"One of Downey's strongest assets is its location," said Brian Saeki, director of community development. "Surrounded by freeways, and just south of downtown Los Angeles, Downey is well-positioned for both residents and businesses."

The report also indicated that Downey has a fairly positive reputation as a "move-up" community with good schools, lower crime, less gang activity, strong healthcare, and convenient shopping.

However, the branding analysis also concluded that Downey lacks a cohesive identity in the 21st century as it struggles to move out of the shadow of its aerospace history and mid-century modern aesthetic.

Under the threat of an unsettled reputation, Northstar's report suggests the city unite around the common theme represented throughout its history: the American dream.

"Northstar discovered that Downey has representations of the American dream in all of its forms, both classic and evolving, such as: classic 1950s architecture, American pride, and independent businesses like Porto's," Saeki said.

"There is a great sense of possibility and a bold confidence in Downey today. It's a city where people still see their hopes gain momentum and where the American dream is born anew every day."

City officials are hoping to bottle up that sentiment and display it across the city over the next 12 months through logos, new stationery, updated websites, branded merchandise, signage and infrastructure.

Flores says Downey Art Vibe's creative team began by launching its own community outreach campaign, holding workshops with different community members, local artists, the city branding subcommittee, and staff members.

"Once we felt we had enough information, we began to design the Discover Downey concept," he said. "Our new brand is meant to be a unifying source of pride for our community and promote our rich history of innovation, community pride, and discovery."

********** Published: Feb. 27, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 46