Marketing a City

I attended a candidate forum last night for the city council elections in the city where I live – good old Kuna, ID (population 15,000). As listened to the speakers  and talked with people afterward, it became glaringly apparent – cities need marketing just as any product or service does. The cities that surround Kuna (Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Eagle) all have identities. These identities have been created through a proactive effort to create and execute a vision. At the heart of hearts – it’s positioning. It was something that became apparent that none of the candidates understood.

Boise is the capital city with all of the amenities and fanfare that come along with that. Meridian is the suburban middle class with a smaller town feel than Boise and a booming commercial economy. Eagle is the small town for rich people, with strict planning and zoning requirements, unique restaurants and coffee shops, and – of course – The Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival (a.k.a. the nut feed). Nampa is the new frontier, where the growth wave is now cresting and residential homes are still affordable.

Where does that leave Kuna? It lacks a compelling identity. There is nothing that is uniquly Kuna that anybody outside of the town cares about – at least nothing that has been presented as an actual identity.  However, Kuna has been the fastest growing city in Idaho, by percentage of population, since 2000. It obviously has something to offer.

Asking anyone in town, it comes down to that small town feel. Kuna is not right off the freeway like most of the towns I mentioned. It is buried back in the hills a bit. It is not a city you drive through. You have to want to come here. I believe it is exactly that seclusion that attracts people here.

The city now stands at a crossroad. It can try the “me too” approach and mimic one of its neighbors. It can continue with its “Gateway to the Birds of Prey” message, of which there may only be a handful of people that care about that. Or it can be uniquely Kuna. All of the same marketing principles apply here: target market, core emotional need, competitors, and differentiators. Even a city needs to look at it’s “brand” if it wants to accomplish long-term sustainability.

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