Branding Minneapolis

According to FutureBrand – a private New York-based consulting service – Minneapolis is a “hidden treasure” that “shouldn’t stay hidden.” In an effort to increase tourism and attract conventions, the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association and FutureBrand are now developing a branding campaign meant to expose Minneapolis to the rest of the nation. While the implementation of this campaign could increase Minneapolis’ national profile, it might besmirch the qualities that give this city the distinction of a “hidden treasure.”

Certainly, tourism and conventions bring money to Minneapolis and its citizens – nearly $1.2 billion in the year 2000 alone. Perpetuating and increasing this monetary stream is precisely why the visitors association exists, and why the study was purchased. But should Minneapolis court even more tourist and conventioneer dollars?

Not if increased tourism means destroying what makes Minneapolis unique. Perhaps the most enjoyable experience of living in Minneapolis is exactly that -ñ living in Minneapolis. The city offers a wide array of amenities and businesses catering to local tastes and eccentricities. What will happen if Minneapolis attempts to cater to an increasingly out-of-town clientele? If it means Minneapolis gets more development disasters like Block E, a set of shops and entertainment complexes that provide no local distinction at all, Minneapolis should avoid excessive promotion of itself as a visitor destination and instead focus on the true engines of urban development: a strong job market and a healthy entrepreneurial spirit.

Another concern: Should Minneapolitans trust an outside company and a local focus group to project their image to the rest of the nation? Joanna Seddon, the study’s supervisor, said, “The aim (of the branding campaign) is to have something that Greater Minneapolis can clearly stand for that will be attractive to people” considering a visit to the area. But what image of Minneapolis will be promoted? Indeed, the Mall of America -ñ which used FutureBrand -ñ recommended the firm to the visitor’s association. Is an entity that is good at promoting a monstrous suburban mall the right company to brand Minnesota’s premier city?