What makes Cedarburg tick?
Branding company reps spend time getting the feel of the city

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Staff

Dec. 19, 2017

CEDARBURG — When Steve Chandler came to town early last week, he met some charming ladies visiting from West Bend who were in town for lunch, he snapped a few photos and made a stop at Amy’s Candy Kitchen … and that was only in his first two hours of his multi-day visit.

But this wasn’t a social visit for Chandler and his research director, Greg Fusion. The duo from ChandlerThinks was in town for some firsthand Cedarburg branding research.

“People don’t remember logos and taglines, they remember how a place makes them feel and the experience they had,” Chandler said. “We’re here to see what makes Cedarburg tick.”

Chandler’s team was in town to tour and talk, conducting interviews with not just the city’s movers and shakers, but residents and even students to get a feel for what the city’s brand should be.

“It’s about creating a city’s story,” he said of the work his firm does for cities around the country. “The logo and a tagline are just the beginning of that story.”

Branding a place, which is what ChandlerThinks specializes in, is not as easy as it may seem.

“A place is not a bar of soap for sale at the grocery store,” Chandler said as an example. “You’re not given its ingredients, what makes it special and a top-down directive on how to market it. It’s not 1953 and you’re trying to sell a product.”

What makes a city special, and what is the core of its brand, is much more difficult to quantify. And it’s an effort that never stops.

“When Coca-Cola works on its branding, it doesn’t finish the job and say, ‘Now what should we do?’” Chandler in a Dec. 11 presentation to the City Council. “It’s an ongoing process.”

In the last seven years, Chandler and his firm have been involved in branding efforts

for about 40 different municipal clients. He noted that oftentimes, the outsider’s perspective is what brings a place clarity.

“Sometimes you have to get out of your own way,” he said candidly. “When we come in, we’re looking in from the outside and we bring a very broad perspective. With that said, there shouldn’t be any surprise in what we find.”

Once ChandlerThinks’ research is complete, he said they will go back and begin work on the creative aspect on the project. Chandler said he will next be back in Cedarburg for a return visit in two to three months, which is when he will present some initial findings.

The project is being funded with the contributions of six local stakeholders: the city of Cedarburg, Cedarburg School District, Cedarburg Light & Water, Cedarburg Landmark Preservation Society, Ozaukee Bank’s Gift to the Future Fund and Cornerstone Buildings LLC.

ChandlerThinks has set up a website to follow along with the project at www.brandingcedarburgwi.com. Anyone interested in providing their input into the project will soon be able to take a survey on the website as well.