I’ll name the brand and then you name the city or region.
  • Silicon Valley
  • The Animal Health Corridor
  • The Flour City or The Flower City

The truth is, for most cities and regions that attempt to brand themselves, they’re more like The Flour City or The Flower City than they are the City of Lights. Many regions recognize the value of creating a brand and start out with great hopes only to find that it’s a long, slow evolution and they eventually run out of money, enthusiasm or vision.

One of the ways those cities/regions could have been more successful long-term is if they kept four key branding cornerstones in mind as they developed their brand.

Why is this relevant for us? This past week the leadership of the Capital Crossroads effort, along with dignitaries like U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled the new brand for our region – The Cultivation Corridor. The goal is straightforward and very audacious as stated in the tagline,“the science that feeds the world.”

Let’s apply the four-cornerstone litmus test to Central Iowa’s new brand.

Could other cities use the same brand? While I’m sure there are other agriculturally oriented regions of the country, most could not. Ag is a part of our DNA and with events like the World Food Prize and corporate headquarters for companies like DuPont Pioneer and Kemin Industries Inc. – we’ve already proven our commitment to the biosciences and specifically to using that knowledge to help feed the world.

Is the brand surprising, based on today’s reality? This is one that trips a lot of people up. If your brand is a huge surprise, you’d better go back to the drawing board. Your brand should feel very comfortable – like you just re-discovered your favorite pair of jeans. It needs to come from your core values or you won’t be able to sustain it. 

What kinds of resources/commitment/support will the new brand have? The good news for The Cultivation Corridor is that it’s part of a much bigger effort that has widespread support and financial backing. The group went beyond that and hired an executive director who is tasked with bringing the brand to life. You can also expect to see the universities and bioscience companies lining up to help.

Does the world at large (or the region of the world that matters to us) care about this brand position? This is where The Flour City or The Flower City tripped. While many of us like flour and flowers, at the end of the day, they’re more of a commodity. They’re not valuable or important enough for us to care. If a brand can’t trigger an emotional response, it’s dead in the water. Feeding the world is a brand with big emotions.

When you look at the key elements, the Capital Crossroads team and their strategic partner Flynn Wright clearly have found a sweet spot that Central Iowa can own and use to capture the world’s attention. The work has just begun. The brand has been identified; now it needs meaning, context and depth. But it’s built on a solid foundation, so we may well be the next Silicon Valley!

P.S. The Flour City or The Flower City is Rochester, N.Y., and Pittsburgh is working on branding Pittsburgh DATAWORKS.