Marketing a Neighborhood

A neighborhood marketing and branding effort, when done from the ground up, has the opportunity to build community pride and provide a better image to the outside world.

I recently attended the annual Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference, hosted by the Center for Community Progress, here in Philadelphia. Three days of informative and interesting workshops, presentations and panel discussions had my head spinning, in a good way, by the end of each of the three days. One of the sessions I attended was about marketing a neighborhood, and included both marketing professionals and real-live community development people. Neighborhoods in Newark and Camden, New Jersey were featured as success stories. If ever there were neighborhoods, and cities, ┬áthat could use some help with marketing, it’s Newark and Camden. Years of urban flight and blight have taken their toll on these cities and their reputations. It was interesting to me how the neighborhoods in each of these cities went about creating their marketing plans. The common denominator in ┬áboth was that each took a “bottom up” approach to creating the neighborhood identity and marketing efforts, in much the same way as you would create a physical urban plan for a neighborhood. A huge amount of effort was made to engage the community, to find out what the residents liked and disliked about their neighborhood, and what they would like to be known for. And while the initial purpose of the marketing was to be externally focused: how to improve a positive image to attract new residents, visitors, businesses and jobs, this effort would have been for naught if the people in the neighborhood didn’t buy the new story. One of the presenters told a story which summed up the true need for internal marketing. The City of Baltimore had gone through great pains and expense to craft an image of itself. And yet, when the presenter spoke to the cab driver in her trip from the airport, the cabbie could not stop talking about all the crime, sleeze, drugs and decay of Baltimore. What had cost millions was undone in a short cab ride. Our presenter then shared that the City of Baltimore had started training cabbies on the its own marketing campaign.