For the 420,000 or so folks who call Northwest Arkansas home, it comes as no secret the region is rich in entrepreneurial history and a great place to live and work.
Mike Malone, president of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said Tuesday (July 31) that was enough for past decades but his team recently saw a need to brand the region for the rest of the world and they called upon the top names in business to get it done.
John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods Inc. and the NWA Council, knows a thing or two about brand recognition. At Tuesday’s unveiling of the new marketing brand for the NWA Council, Tyson reminded a small press gathering in Springdale that he grew up here, when Springdale had 5,000 people and a bus ride to Fayetteville was a long trip. He said times have changed and the region’s sum is far greater than the major cities by themselves.
“We have a hidden gem here, but it’s time to tell the rest of the world,” Tyson said.
Tim Marrin, associate director of external relations at Proctor & Gamble, led the group’s efforts to build a brand for the entire region, a project that took roughly a year from concept to launch. Marrin said he called upon top branding experts from P&G both in Fayetteville and the company’s Cincinnati-home base, employing the same tactics as done for all major products.
P&G has built some of the recognizable brands in the world today like “Tide” and “Pampers.” Marrin said his team was composed of folks born here, those who moved here 8 to 12 years ago and new residents — as recent as two weeks. Malone said in the 22 years since the council was formed, branding at this level has never been accomplished until now.
P&G has had an inside look at how this region is sometimes perceived by those from afar.
“We often have people transferred here kicking and screaming but when it’s time for them to move back to Ohio or relocate, most often they don’t want to leave,” Marrin said.
The first order of business was to
take the skeptics and turn them into believers — which was the challenge set forth by the team.
The second task was the character issue. Marrin said it’s what the brand stands for and what people experience every time they visit Northwest Arkansas.
“For us that meant sushi and sweet tea. Sushi has a hint of sophistication and sweet tea promotes the image of hospitality,” Marrin said.
The final leg of the branding model is the point of difference — those traits that will set this brand apart for other competitors.
Marrin said for Northwest Arkansas that was easy when considering the entrepreneurial giants who lived here first and then went on to build Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport among others.
He said the central message became Northwest Arkansas: Great for Business. Great for Life.
Marrin and his team handed the project off to Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods and Mitchell Communications who developed promotional pieces and strategies for marketing this new brand without the use of commercial advertising. Saaatchi & Saatchi X and Rockfish Interactive also worked on the campaign.
Malone said social media platforms will be employed for basic marketing but much of the work that was done will be used by the five chambers of commerce who took part in the project — Fayetteville, Springdale, Siloam Springs, Rogers and Bentonville.
He said the NWA Council website is in the midst of a major overhaul that will reflect the new Northwest Arkansas brand symbolic of upward movement, forests, diversity and mountains with the tag lines: Great for Business. Great for Life.
Malone said the brand is an important piece as the region looks to the future for new opportunities to recruit business, promote homegrown entrepreneurs and help others expand their operations in Northwest Arkansas.
See the associated promo video below.
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