Lake Bluff 2016 Strategic Plan stakeholders suggested, in order to achieve a business climate which sustains a robust and stable local economy, the Village develop a marketing plan. Developing this plan required the Village to uncover its brand, which necessitated the hiring of North Star Destinations (in November 2012) – an advertising agency located in Nashville, TN specializing in local government branding. The benefits of an integrated brand are far-reaching, affecting the economic stability of the residential and business communities. Proactive communities, such as Lake Bluff, brand themselves to be distinctive and to be destinations of choice for businesses, industry, visitors, residents, families and others.
North Star conducted more than a dozen pieces of research to identify what differentiates Lake Bluff from its neighbors and competitors. By examining the community (stakeholders, residents), consumers (visitors, regional and state officials in tourism and economic development) and the competition (neighboring and other communities), North Star determined a strategy for Lake Bluff to assert across all community assets to implement an effective, meaningful and relevant brand. Important findings are summarized below.
Branding research revealed...
Nestled at the northernmost point of the North Shore, Lake Bluff stands in stark contrast to many of its neighboring communities. Known for affluence and abundance, the North Shore has a reputation as one of the most desirable places to live in Chicago, if one can afford it. This is an area known for extravagance and, at times, research showed, somewhat ―high-brow. But North Star’s research revealed an interesting characteristic that distinguishes Lake Bluff from other North Shore communities.
Upon visiting Lake Bluff, one immediately senses a uniqueness about the community. Instead of extravagance, the residents and stakeholders in the Village focus their attention on experiences. Lake Bluff is known for welcoming and down-to-earth residents whose ability to make you feel at home gives new residents (and even life-long ones) and visitors a laid back, casual feeling.
Events and festivals, like the 4th of July Parade and the Lake Bluff Halloween events (where close to 1,800 children come to trick-or-treat), add a lively and energetic atmosphere to the community. Bringing residents together, whether through a large block party of intimate neighborly get-together, is one of the things Lake Bluff does best. In fact, when asking people what brought them to Lake Bluff instead of other North Shore communities, respondents overwhelmingly said ― the laid-back and down-to-earth nature of the community.”
Along with this small-town charm, Lake Bluff boasts a beautiful lakefront that hasn’t been overdeveloped, but instead has retained its authenticity with a small covered picnic area, fire pits and a ― yacht club featuring a few small kayaks and sailboats (a great example of Lake Bluff’s humorous side). Along the bluffs and throughout the area beautiful architecture dots the community with aesthetically pleasing homes and Village assets.
Also, downtown Lake Bluff is a focal point to the Village, where residents and visitors come to enjoy a great craft-brew, fantastic dinner at Inovasi or shop at the local farmer’s market. And finally fantastic parks and recreational assets and highly-recognized schools make Lake Bluff a popular destination for families.
As with any community, Lake Bluff is not without its challenges. Research showed that the population of the Village is declining due to an aging majority and high property tax rates when compared to surrounding area. The community’s small size makes it difficult to reach true economies of scale to keep costs low and therefore ease the burden for local residents. Additionally, some mentioned in the research that the lack of big box retail was an additional barrier to lowering the property tax rates; while others did not think that big box retail was representative of the culture in Lake Bluff. Some small business owners, particularly in the Downtown area, mentioned the lack of repeat foot traffic from residents was a challenge to keeping their doors open over the long-term.
The Village of Lake Bluff stands apart from other communities because of its culture of laid-back, down-to-earth atmosphere. The residents of the North Shore, as a general rule, have most everything needed to live an affluent, material life. But, when everything is at your fingertips, what do you envy? Residents in Lake Bluff are less concerned with the name brand clothing or living up to the standards of the North Shore; they are more concerned with experiencing life with family and friends. Having a deep sense of belonging to your neighbors and your community is a priceless reward for living in Lake Bluff.
STRATEGIC BRAND PLATFORM
North Star funnels strategic insights for the brand into a single sentence, the brand platform. The brand platform is used as a filter for the formation of creative concepts and implementation initiatives in the Imagination phase of this project. All communications, actions and product development will connect to the essence of this relevant and defining statement:
"For those who prize experiences over extravagance Lake Bluff, IL is one of the smallest Villages on the North Shore nestled along Lake Michigan, just minutes from Chicago, where its small size, unpretentious charm, and easygoing spirit set it apart even in prestigious company so you spend life laughing with the Joneses, not keeping up with them."
BRAND NARRATIVE - its purpose is to help residents and consumers connect and embrace the emotional story of the brand to their own lives. The Brand Narrative is critical to successful integration of the brand for a number of reasons:
- It can literally and figuratively serve as a guide for users working to integrate brand tone and language into their own marketing and communications.
- It helps maintain consistency of tone and message amongst all users, thus preserving the integrity of the brand.
- It provides language users can replicate verbatim in their own communications when applicable.
Now that the process to uncover the Village's brand has concluded the Village has executed a "roll-out" of the Brand Action Ideas developed by North Star in two phases:
- Phase I - changes to the Village's physical environment, such as: office stationary, flags and banners, entryway signage, and with the help of local merchants, various pieces of branded merchandise and other tangible items, as well as the digital environment involving our website and various social media outlets.
- Phase II - establishing connections and marketing the community to those outside of our borders.
If you are interested in using graphics and other artistic work and establishing the Lake Bluff brand in your organization, or to market Lake Bluff merchandise, please feel free to contact Drew Irvin, Village Administrator, at 847-234-0774.