To start at the beginning, really, you could go back to the 1870s. That's when Gen. William Jackson Palmer started working to establish Colorado Springs as a destination for affluent travelers and earned this city its first nickname: Little London.
That, of course, wasn't an official "branding" endeavor. In the 21st century, one of those goes like this:
• March 2011: The Community Branding Task Force is formed to seek a cohesive marketing brand for Colorado Springs. Members of this task force include representatives from Experience Colorado Springs, the local convention and visitors bureau; city government; and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., among others.
• May 2011: The task force announces that it has hired Stone Mantel, a "brand and customer experience strategy consulting firm" out of Castle Rock, to take the lead in developing the new brand.
• July-Oct. 2011: Task force members, along with Stone Mantel, start interviewing residents about the qualities that attracted them to the Springs, and the virtues of the region. Ideas develop, the list narrows, local and distant focus groups provide input, and consensus develops within the task force.
• Nov. 15, 2011: After months of research and development, and non-general-fund expenditures of $111,000, Mayor Steve Bach helps unveil the brand, which leads with a purple-and-green mountain image and the tagline, "Live it up!" The Pioneers Museum ceremony features quaint signage, smiling politicians and a short video of interviews with (mostly older) people discussing why the city is great.
Which leads us to an unofficial "rebranding" endeavor, 21st-century style:
• Nov. 16, 2011: Local designers Marcus Haggard and Tucker Wannamaker begin the Facebook page Rebrand the Springs. Their goal: to "energize a large segment of our talented professionals and get them involved in our city's identity." More than 600 people soon "Like" the page.
• Nov. 17, 2011: The Independent announces WeBrand the Springs, a competition to find the best logo-and-tagline pairing and promotional video among readers' submissions. The paper says that it will process the entries, pick finalists and ask readers to choose winners at csindy.com between Dec. 22 and Dec. 27. It lays out a total of $1,100 in prize money — or 1 percent of what was spent on generating "Live it up!"— as well as a trip to Las Vegas, courtesy West Side Tattoo, with airfare for one, and a $100 gift certificate to the tattoo shop.
• Nov. 21, 2011: Branding task force members meet publicly with vocal members of the young professional community, including Wannamaker and Haggard. The young professionals explain that the new brand fails to give the community an identity to rally around, and even falls short of representing all of the work that the task force brought to the process. Doug Price, the chairman of the task force, says that he and his colleagues will discuss what they've heard.
• Dec. 9, 2011: Following those discussions, the task force announces that it will accept proposals from local people, design firms and agencies interested in generating a new brand logo. After the Jan. 6 cutoff (RFP guidelines are at visitcos.com), a "curator team" of people from the local marketing, public-relations and design communities will choose three entities to submit logo ideas — though all designers will have to keep the "Live it up!" tagline. Up to five ideas will be chosen as finalists. After a public-comment period, the curator team will recommend a selection to the task force, in hopes of winning final approval.
So that's where we stand. While it may not be easy for all of us to live with "Live it up!" the task force deserves credit for re-opening the process, and laying out more of its time and (non-city) money: $1,000 to each of three finalists, then $2,000 to the eventual winner.
And by agreeing to more fully engage the community, it will benefit from the same energy that poured into the Indy's WeBrand competition. (Well, most of the competition; see "So not everyone's an artist," p. 25.) In the next three pages, you'll find nine branding ideas (including logo and tagline) worthy of recognition, as well as some other individual taglines to consider.
Please vote for your favorite brand and tagline at csindy.com before 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 27. Not only will you help reward some talented locals financially, you'll also put yourself in the running to be randomly drawn from all the voters to win a prize pack containing a $50 gift certificate for the Stagecoach Inn, a pair of tickets to the Feb. 4, 2012, Colorado College vs. University of Denver hockey game, and a $30 gift certificate to Tony's Bar.
The winning design and the winning voter will be named in our issue on Dec. 29. We'll also invite the designer(s) to come with us as we present his or her work to the convention and visitors bureau later that day.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who entered our competition, and best of luck to those who vie for the task force's official blessing.
Robert Crum & Jeff Gonyea
Artists' statement: "The individual elements of the brand engage the senses to the greatest parts of being in Colorado Springs as a resident or a visitor. The tagline generates feelings of adventure and excitement whether one will be enjoying the city or pursuing a passion among the trees hiking, biking, skiing/snowboarding, etc. Similar to viewing an Ansel Adams, the brand itself evokes an emotional response to the adventurous life most people dream of living in their heart of hearts. Every day is an adventure in Colorado Springs!"
Artist statement: "It is important that a logo for Colorado Springs depict multiple facets of life here. In addition to iconic outdoor recreation sites such as Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon Open Space, this logo incorporates the buildings of downtown to represent our arts, cultural, dining and shopping scene. I feel that ultimately, the most unique and beautiful distinction of the city is Pikes Peak, so it appears in the logo and is referred to in the tagline."
About the artist: Tisa Foster is a painter and illustrator living in the Springs and is honored to be a native of the area.
Artist statement: "'Four seasons living' is the best way to describe our wonderful life in Colorado Springs. We truly get to experience each season throughout the year: beautiful spring, sunny summer, colorful fall and snowy winter."
About the artist: Xavier Fretard is a silly French man camouflaged under a big bushy Colorado beard. He also loves performing and creating digital art.
Artist statement: "The best ideas finish inside your head, instead of 14 inches in front of you, on a page. If your idea can do that, it deserves to be a finalist in this worthy competition. I hope you win. Maybe we can drink a Laughing Lab together."
About the artist: Bill Miller used to make big businesses bigger. Now, he starts them from scratch. He is the CEO of Dust Off Your Dreams, a new business incubator, located in the Springs.
Artist statement: "Our city and its people back-dropped by the overshadowing Pikes Peak, America's Mountain, our affiliation with the U.S. Olympic Committee, healthy outdoor living and adventure near and within a major urban center, vibrant city living and rugged individualism."
About the artist: Tom O'Bryan is a semi-retired, "real amateur photographer" who loves the small-town feel of downtown and the west side. He's an avid hiker, climber, cyclist and lover of most things outdoors and Colorado.
Artist statement: "The image depicts the modern city of Colorado Springs. Sitting under the shadow of Pikes Peak, it has been rated as the perfect place to live."
About the artist: Sally Piette is a local graphic designer and artist. She lives in Colorado Springs with her partner and their four cats.
John P. Schloss
Artist statement: "This logo is a call to action. Pikes Peak is the focal point because it is visible from all over Colorado Springs. The strokes flowing down the peak are the defining curve on the mountain, bike paths, hiking trails, snow tracks, off road trails, hill climb tracks, and paths to everyone's own peak. The blue sky above signifies the beautiful weather we have. 'Breathtaking' is to say how breathtaking the scenery is to admire, and to hike in; "Reach Your Peak" simply means that you can be your most challenged, best self, from an Olympic athlete to an orchestra performer."
About the artist: John P. Schloss is a Colorado Springs native and loves being outdoors in every season.
Artist statement: "The concept behind the logo was to create a simple, vibrant and modern graphic for the Springs. Pikes Peak is front and center, with Garden of the Gods to the right and Cheyenne Mountain to the left."
About the artist: Amy Sullivan recently completed the multimedia graphic design program at Pikes Peak Community College, and is establishing an Old Colorado City print and design studio.
Nethery Wylie & Judith Rice-Jones
Artists' statement: "Colorado Springs' Chamber of Commerce actually selected 'City of Sunshine' as its motto in 1928. It reflects the beautiful climate, our status as a destination for health-seekers, and many opportunities for outdoor recreation."
About the artists: Nethery Wylie (right), who created the image, is an artist with a downtown studio, a day job and a patient family. Judith Rice-Jones, who offered the text, is a retired librarian, historic preservationist and a graduate student in geography and environmental studies.
So, not everyone's an artist
In the waning days of the WeBrand competition, we came reluctantly to a realization: Half the competition was a dud. No one had yet created a short video to promote Colorado Springs, and it seemed unlikely that the situation would be changing before 5:55 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15.
We did, however, already have plenty of taglines that people had included in quickly written e-mails, without a logo to go with them. So with a last-minute announcement at csindy.com, we invited people to submit more. As with the logo-and-tagline competition, we promised to cull the herd, and then to organize a reader vote to pick a winner.
In the end, we got dozens of taglines (and, sure enough, no videos). Below are the Top 10, some of which came in by themselves, some of which we extracted from designers' complete packages. When you go to csindy.com to vote for your favorite "brand," please take a minute to vote for a tagline that you believe stands on its own quite nicely. The person who submitted it will receive $200.
Are you up for it? (Jane Madden)
City of sunshine (Judith Rice-Jones)
Four seasons living (Xavier Fretard)
Keep it to yourself (William Miller)
Live adventure (Robert Crum and Jeff Gonyea)
Live — elevated! (Warren Hill)
A natural high (Susan Miller)
Perfectly proportioned (Tom O'Bryan)
Still a favorite of the gods (Jane Madden)
We love company (Paul Meacham)
Put that on a T-shirt
'Let's brand ourselves." While marketing types will tell you it's essential, the idea is sort of akin to giving yourself a nickname. It sounds a little desperate, and encourages a perhaps unhealthy level of navel-gazing.
So there's something to be said for the kind of friend who comes along, finds you with your head down, and flicks you in the nose.
Unsurprisingly, this city has a few such friends. So let's take a moment to thank them for tagline ideas that certainly never found their way onto a white board at our Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Unicorns Are Rare. Colorado Springs Is Even Rarer. (Ryan Lloyd)
Even Higher Than That Mile High Place (Jane Madden)
Hey, We're Only an Hour From Denver (Michael Salkind)
Get High or Go Home! (Steve Suhre)
Burb It Up! (Louise Conner)