Downtown Gets Branded

April 28, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Downtown Alliance unveiled Thursday a new identity and logo to brand and market downtown Grand Rapids and, hopefully, attract more foot traffic and businesses to the core city.

There are actually two logos. One is designed for use by arts and cultural institutions, restaurants, retailers and businesses to market to the public. The other is for use in business-to-business and institutional communications, such as letters and brochures.

The public logo incorporates different-sized concentric circles in bold colors that have the effect of “zeroing in” on the words “downtown Grand Rapids.” The center circle is the same shade of red as the Calder sculpture in front of City Hall and the blue plays up the Grand River. The business-to-business logo is in the same colors but is slightly more sedate, with the words “Downtown Grand Rapids” laid out in a grid pattern.

The brand’s tagline is “Keep it a secret.”

“We were trying to come up with something that was memorable, fun and thought-provoking,” said Downtown Alliance Chair Kurt Hassberger, COO of Rockford Companies. “I think it is intended to imply a certain confidence. It’s certainly tongue-in-cheek because we’re attempting to do exactly the opposite. We were trying to do something that would get people’s attention and that they wouldn’t forget right away.”

Both the tagline and logos have generally been well received, Hassberger said. 

Sharon Evoy, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, describes the brand as “fun, confident, bold and definitely cheeky” and believes it will get people talking about downtown.

“That’s what we saw when we took it to the Downtown Alliance executive committee and the Downtown Alliance board. Both times it was hard to get people to stop talking about it,” she said.

Evoy noted that the Downtown Alliance Merchants’ Council will work with downtown organizations and businesses to help them identify ways to incorporate the brand into their current marketing efforts.

“If businesses have this little logo on their ads, it will tie them together and give them strength as downtown businesses.”

To Joe Tomaselli, marketing committee chair for the alliance and president of the Amway Hotel Corp., the new brand “means profitable restaurants, bars and retailers.”

“It translates into sold-out events at our various performance venues and well-attended museums, galleries and festivals,” Tomaselli said. “It also means higher occupancy rates for hotels, apartments and condos and increased use of downtown office space.”

Hassberger said about 50 people worked on the branding initiative, including a creative team from Hanon McKendry, the Downtown Alliance board and other downtown stakeholders, such as the Downtown Development Authority.

The initiative stemmed from the Arts and Entertainment study commissioned by the DDA a couple of years ago, which recommended the development of a marketing strategy for downtown.    

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