+ When people say, “We’re developing a civic brand for Dearborn?” what exactly do they mean? What exactly is it that’s being developed?

The first thing that’s being physically created is a printed document that will contain all the basic information needed to tell a powerful, exciting story about Dearborn to key groups of people we want to connect with.

Think of it as a blueprint to help advertisers, marketers, publicists, HR professionals and others create all of the campaigns and communications they will use to promote Dearborn.

The most important piece of this “brand blueprint” is the backstory. It’s literally a written narrative that uses all of the other key ideas and messages we want to convey about Dearborn. It is to brand storytelling what a synopsis is to a novel or a treatment is to a film. It helps to get everybody onto the same page about the story we want to share, regardless of what kinds of media or communications channels they’re using.

+ Why do we need a “brand”? Why can’t we just create a campaign?

Think of a brand as the foundation not just for a single advertising or PR campaign but also for every single communication people will use to talk about our city—every email, every blog, every speaking engagement and so on.

Also, think of the brand as the foundation not just for one campaign but for many. Campaigns are great for creating impact. Brand platforms are great for providing consistency as well as ways to track progress across audiences and channels, and over time.

+ Is brand building really the wisest way to spend money to make Dearborn a better place?

As part of a larger, coordinated effort that includes building strong communities of interest and making physical improvements to the cityscape, brand-building is a wise investment. It tends to accelerate and enhance the ability to achieve other strategic goals. While measuring a brand’s direct financial impact is complex, studies have shown that successful brand efforts can add many millions of dollars of value to local economies—by a factor many times greater than the investment itself.

+ What does a typical branding campaign cost a city? What is Dearborn’s campaign costing, and where is the funding coming from?

Costs vary widely, depending on what the city is actually purchasing when it invests in a “branding campaign”. The Dearborn community, led for this campaign by the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority and the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, is making a real commitment to a long-term brand-building effort. This effort will deliver measurable value in terms of talent attraction, retail occupancy, property values, and quality of life, among other things. The dollar value of a successful brand-building effort is a factor many times that of the brand and marketing outlay. It’s value that stands to benefit every resident and business owner.

It is important to know where the funding is coming from for this campaign. Funding for the Dearborn branding campaign is primarily from the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority ($179,000) and the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority ($147,500), which are spearheading the campaign because of the benefit to those designated business districts. But Dearborn is even more than its business districts, so the City of Dearborn contributed $50,000 and corporate partners contributed more than $100,000.

Approximately half of this funding has been spent over the previous 15 months to conduct the research and develop the tools on which all future campaigns will be built. The second half is dedicated to “taking the brand live” through a variety of marketing channels including a new web site as a top priority. These costs are in line with what other cities Dearborn’s size might reasonably spend.

After this initial investment, stakeholders envision developing an annual budget to maintain and refresh the effort. This investment number will be developed for years 2021 and forward upon completion of the long-term strategy plan, and adopted through the DDDAs annual budget process.

+ Will the brand initiative result in a new logo?

Yes, our scope of work calls for the development of a new logo, and we’re confident they’ll represent the overall brand in just the right way. That said, the logo is part of a much larger visual and messaging system, and not even the most important part of the system at that. When the time comes for the brand story to go live, we will focus on introducing all of the parts and creating excitement around how they work together. See assets you can use to view all the elements of the brand.


+ If the brand is not just the logo, what are some of the other themes and elements that go into it?

Check out the Dearborn Brand Story & Guide we’ve posted here. If you’re specifically interested in themes, check out pages 26-30 of the guide. The public had enormous input in helping us to understand and express the themes of the Dearborn brand story.

Dearborn billboard example

+ Why does Dearborn need a logo if it already has an official City Seal?

The City Seal is used for official city business. It is the graphic you see on birth certificates, building permit applications, proclamations, traffic tickets, tax bills and other official documents. The seal is not meant for branding or marketing purposes. In fact, it is illegal for the seal to be used by businesses or community organizations if not for an official purpose and approved by the City.

The new brand and logo is meant to be the visual used in widespread materials by community partners, as well as the DDDAs and the City. Its use is much more flexible than the seal, and is designed to convey a brighter, more informal and inviting image of the community, different than the “official business” vibe.

+ Explain what the colors and elements of the logo mean.

The varied shapes within the logo represent rich mosaics, vibrant neighborhoods, lively downtowns and diversity which come together to create a united and connected logo mark. The hexagon shape is inspired by both the beehive, symbolizing community, and nuts and bolts supporting the theme of hands-on creator and innovation. Rounded corners convey friendliness and approachability, much like the personality of Dearborn. View About the Dearborn Logo Elements PDF.

The color palette is rich and vibrant, reinforcing the persona of a welcoming, creative city. There are eight colors to choose from for expressing the brand in a variety of ways.

Dearborn Brand Colors

We have also created an icon set that enhances the Dearborn personality: smart, down-to-earth, diverse, creative, real. It is inspired by the city’s culture, environment and values. Through varied subject and colors, we represent diversity in people and a range of experiences and environments in the community. Please see the visual language pages 45-72 of the Dearborn Brand Story & Guide for more details.

Dearborn Brand patterns

+ What makes the logo distinct from existing logos?

For the logo, as well as for the brand overall, distinctiveness is one of several objectives we pursued. First, we wanted to make sure that our logo would be distinct from the logos of other cities in the region. That’s where it really needs to stand out. If you look at what other cities are using, you’ll see the Dearborn logo succeeds at that. (Yes, like the marketing logo for Detroit, it uses a “D” in an enclosed shape, but that’s where the similarity ends.)

In the visually crowded world we live in, with thousands and thousands of logos created for every imaginable purpose, it’s not too hard to find logos that resemble each other. This is especially true if the logo is composed of just a few simple elements, like ours. As long as the Dearborn logo stands out where it needs to, we’re not too concerned about whatever else is out there.

+ Did the public vote on the logo or branding themes?

No. As a rule, cities and public institutions don’t put their logos and branding themes up for a public vote. Keep in mind, the logo is just a small part of the overall brand deliverable, which includes strategy documents, competitive research, messaging decks and a complete visual system, as well as visual and verbal guidelines. Months of discovery and development go into creating them. All of these items are designed to work together to achieve specific long-range goals.

Responsible cities and public institutions welcome public input. For the Dearborn brand, we worked to make sure that interested members of the public could follow along with the work as it progressed on brandingdearborn.com. Downtown Development Authority Meetings at which brand materials, including the logo, were presented and reviewed, were noticed to the public. We also sought input and guidance from a variety of individuals and groups at key milestones in the 15-month long project. Many, many individuals helped to shape the Dearborn brand toolkit, including all the visual elements, at every step of the way.

+ What happens if the logo is not endorsed by the public?

Dearborn people care about Dearborn a lot, so it’s not surprising people have shared their opinions on the logo when it was announced, pro and con, especially on social media. We understand some people have different ideas about how the logo should look. That said, we haven’t encountered anything that causes us to doubt the logo will serve its intended purpose as part of the overall Dearborn brand story. Logos dominate the limelight when they go live. In time, people tend to become more comfortable with a logo mark as they are used in context with the brand system and become a familiar part of the marketing landscape. Give the Dearborn logo a bit of time to do its thing. Many other communities and corporations have faced the same responses when first launching a new brand, so while we are unique, we are not alone.

In early 2020, look for opportunities to learn more about the development of the branding campaign, including the visual elements, and even more importantly, to understand where we are going with it. We intend to hold one-on-one meetings with businesses and organizations, as well as a public session open to residents and supporters of Dearborn.

+ Is the brand initiative geared only to the East and West Downtown Districts?

No. The story we will tell will apply to all of Dearborn. This includes not only all of Dearborn’s key business districts but also our neighborhoods, cultural amenities, recreational opportunities and more.

+ What kinds of changes am I likely to see as part of the brand building effort?

Chances are, you will see promotional campaign elements in various print, digital and physical locations beginning in 2019. Of course, much of the outreach to prospective business owners, visitors, students and others will take place outside of Dearborn to point people to Dearborn.

Over time, the biggest and most important changes you will notice will involve a clear improvement in the overall quality of life in Dearborn itself. (See our goals)

At a certain point a few years from now, we hope you will think, “Wow, Dearborn sure has come alive!” We also expect that when you proudly tell people you’re from Dearborn, they will say—with even more consistency and enthusiasm than they already might—“Dearborn? Awesome, I’ve heard so much about it!” Perceptions like that are sure signs of the Dearborn brand at work.

+ How are you making sure that everyone’s voice will be heard?

A key tool for making sure everyone’s voice will be heard is the Dearborn Community Survey available here on this web site. While the survey period officially closes at the end of November 2018, we will look at any future surveys anyone fills out after that date, too. (We just won’t factor later responses into our formal analysis.) To ensure the survey is accessible to as many people as possible, we are making it available in both Arabic and English, online and as hard copies distributed throughout the community. After the survey date, we will continue to post updates to the web site and engage with any residents, businesspeople or other Dearborn stakeholders who reach out to us.

+ How will we know if the initiative is working? How will we measure success?

One step in our overall effort calls for communications planning. During this step, we will identify key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to each of our goals. These will include milestones as well as metrics that we can track over time. Our plan is to share publicly our progress in realizing these key performance indicators over time.

+ Why all the research? Don’t we already know what’s important to showcase about our city?

Certainly, many people know Dearborn well and can already point out obvious highlights. Many people are already telling a positive Dearborn story on their own. That said, it’s not clear that individual efforts today are telling Dearborn’s story in a consistent, unified and focused way. The Dearborn brand initiative will help to get everyone on the same page so we can present Dearborn with vastly greater consistency and focus.

+ What would happen if we didn’t do this work?

Hard to say. But keep this truism about brand storytelling in mind: If you don’t tell your story yourself, someone else will tell it for you—and not always in the way that you want. Are you aware of any negative perceptions about Dearborn in the media? If so, what positive perceptions would you like to replace them with? Are you aware of great features of Dearborn that would attract positive notice and investment if only more people knew about them? If so, how will they know?

By developing our brand and then telling it in a powerful, focused way, we have the opportunity to broadcast the true and favorable perceptions of Dearborn we’d like for others to have.

+ Who is the intended user of the Dearborn brand tools?

Key businesses and organizations that call Dearborn home, together with the City of Dearborn, have already expressed a desire to use the brand to help support their visions and goals. These organizations are well equipped to make full use of the brand tools this initiative will deliver.

That said, these tools are freely available to everyone, and anyone can find opportunities to share the Dearborn story. If you live, work or go to school in Dearborn, you’re automatically a brand ambassador. You’re already living the brand, and already part of the story.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Dearborn brand story and tools might help your business or organization, please let us know. Contact Us.