Anchorage Big Wild Life branding research

Between the busses, radio advertisements and trendy tote bags, you’ve probably noticed Anchorage Big Wild Life. The city’s new slogan introduced in 2007 has been plastered about in an effort to brand Anchorage as a perfect blend of urbanity and wilderness.

The campaign, which no doubt cost more than most would like to think, has now finished its germination period and is in full maturity. This is the point where people begin wondering, has the money, effort and time put into Anchorage Big Wild Life been effective in accomplishing the goals outlined for the campaign? Maybe that should be an easy question to answer but it’s not.

Anchorage Big Wild Life is the brainchild of the Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC). Unlike most advertising campaigns adorning coffee mugs and cheap pens, Anchorage Big Wild Life wasn’t created to accomplish a goal with X amount of dollars and Y amount of time. In fact, Big Wild Life isn’t an advertising campaign at all. It’s a city brand. Jack Bonney of the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau was quick to point out that Anchorage Big Wild Life is more than just fancy advertisements. It was created to represent the identity of Anchorage.

So how does one judge if a slogan is successfully representing a city? That’s the problem. There are no quantifiable goals trying to be accomplished by Big Wild Life. Its success is largely in the eye of the beholder.

It’s easier to see the brand is successful when looking at smaller pieces of the whole. The brand has developed a look that almost all Anchorage visitor information complies with and graphically the brand is light-years ahead of the old “Wild about Anchorage” brand. Perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of Big Wild Life is unifying the municipality, AEDC and visitors bureau on a single project. These three entities worked together interviewing leaders, organizing a public forum, conducting visitor phone interviews and auditing other competitive cities.

The extent of Big Wild Life is surprising according to Valerie Lindstam who just started working as the communications director for the AEDC a month ago. Lindstram says she is continually discovering new things about the brand and indicated that the AEDC works very closely with the visitors bureau on Big Wild Life despite the brunt of the work being already completed.

Bonney says the brand has been established and most of the continued effort goes into regular tourism promotion, a relief to those counting the beans as marketing costs pile up. Even with the initial costs over the brand continues to incur some costs due do its positioning as a living community brand that evolves and adapts with the city.

The trouble with branding a city is that branding is supposed to create an identity and Big Wild Life is trying to represent an identity. The purpose then is mostly lost within Anchorage; that’s where the true purpose of Big Wild Life comes to light. Bonney says the heart of the Big Wild Life brand is sharing Alaska with potential visitors. This may be disappointing to residents to learn they aren’t even the primary audience of this giant marketing maneuver but this is actually good news.

A catchy slogan and graphics that change to reflect the city as it evolves doesn’t benefit residents but increased tourism means business for Alaska. Residents can rest knowing Big Wild Life was created for their benefit and that even if the brand doesn’t have a transformative effect on the city, they know Anchorage doesn’t need branding. It’s worthy of branding.

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