A ‘brand’ new Clinton

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

January 9, 2014

The City of Clinton has kicked off an initiative anticipated to give it a new face by the end of 2014, one that can be used for the foreseeable future to market the city to those inside and out.

Last year, the City Council had several discussions regarding the branding effort, which would be used to promote the city for economic growth. The issue was delayed last June, however on Tuesday, the Council unanimously approved moving forward with a proposal from Arnett Muldrow & Associates of Greenville, S.C.

The $18,000 cost has already been budgeted in the current 2013-14 plan.

“Branding is more than providing our community with just a logo and a tagline,” Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose said. “Branding would deliver to the community a lot of other design elements. One of the things I particularly notice when I receive an email from someone is the signature on the email. Right now, within the City of Clinton, you probably have 50 different email signatures. This would provide our community with a common use of the brand and the logo.”

That would include marketing concepts and messaging for the community, as well as logo and tagline designs for Clinton and community partners, custom banner designs, coordinated wayfinding design concepts and web page design along with other concepts and imaging.

“It would also provide a strategy on how to implement that brand, which we would try to do over the course of several years,” Rose said. “They are going to do a lot of research for us, then assist us not only with what we do now, but what we do next and what we do in the future to really draw positive attention and image-building to our community for economic purposes.”

In March 2013, proposals for brand development were submitted by several firms in response to the city’s request for proposals. Arnett Muldrow & Associates offered an initial proposal of $64,000 that would include numerous other elements and a grander marketing piece. Budget concerns led to a scaled-down branding effort for $18,000, $10,000 from downtown funds and $8,000 split between the city’s General and Water and Sewer funds.

In June 2013, the Council concurred that implementing a branding initiative would be a positive move, but felt the effort should wait until the next city manager was in place. Arnett Muldrow & Associates agreed to extend the proposal until the end of 2013, maintaining the not to exceed price of $18,000 quoted to the city in March 2013.

With city manager Shawn Purvis now in place, he asked Council to revisit the initiative Tuesday.

Rose, who selected Arnett Muldrow along with Purvis and former city manager John Connet last year, said the branding and logo for the city and a distinct brand for its downtown would help build efforts where a lot of progress has already been made. Wayfinding would be a big part of the branding initiative, pointing out key destinations for visitors, she said.

Rose pointed to Arnett Muldrow’s experiencing, having provided community branding services to more than 300 communities in 30 states, including numerous towns in North Carolina. The development of a brand and marketing strategy here will bring a brand that is uniquely Clinton.

“That will be our brand and our tagline,” said Rose. “The City of Clinton will be able to use it to put a positive image of Clinton in the minds of not only our citizens but also visitors to our community, business people who own businesses in our community and investors who are interested in coming to our community to invest money.”

Councilman Steve Stefanovich pointed to the research that would accompany design elements, and actually precede them.

“The branding and the logo is all one thing, but they’re also going to do some research to figure out who we are, to help us find out where we want to go and (how) we want to brand ourselves,” Stefanovich said. “They’ll help us develop that before they just throw out some logo or brand.”

Rose said that was exactly right.

She said the brand and logo would only come after meeting with “stakeholders” in the community to evaluate how the city is perceived internally and externally. A new city brand will be developed and a marketing plan will be prepared to guide the city staff on how to use the new logo to promote the community.

“That may be a group of citizens or community partners involved in organizations — they are going to help us define the image we want to project. They’re also going to provide us with some marketing research, what type of vendors or businesses are interested in locating or spending dollars within the City of Clinton.”

Arnett anticipates the project will take six to eight months to complete. City staff will facilitate the firm however is needed, especially with scheduling stakeholder meetings, Rose noted, “to help us get the product we want in the end for our community.”

“Clinton is such a wonderful place to live and we know, but a lot of people don’t know,” said Councilwoman Jean Turlington. “The more attention we can draw to us, and they can find out how wonderful we are, the better it will be for us in the long run.”

In other business, the City Council approved:

• A request by Joan Wilson to rezone approximately 3 acres along Faison Highway (N.C. 403) from O&I-Office & Institutional to HC-Highway Commercial.

• Directing the clerk to investigate a petition received from property owners located at 307 Russell St., for voluntary annexation. The petition is an add-on as part of several properties on Russell Street and Pugh Road annexed Jan. 1.

• The charge-off of unpaid utility accounts.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at