Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Ford Motor Company, Budweiser, and the list goes on.

Corporations around the globe spend billions of dollars every year building and promoting their brand. The mere mention of their names generates a visual and more importantly an emotional connection to their logo, symbols (i.e. Budweiser’s Clydesdale horses), and their products. If executed properly, collectively all these associations and images create a unique identity, one that sets them apart from their competition. For instance, when I see a photo of a Big Mac on a billboard, I know with 99.9% certainty I am not thinking of the King, and of course the company believes I “deserve a break today” and that I use that break to make a pass under the golden arches. Would you like some fries with that? Why, yes, thank you, and super-size it while you’re at it.

Branding is not just exclusive to major corporations. States, cities and towns also aggressively throw a vast amount of resources towards building a brand, all in the name of economic development. “Virginia is for Lovers”, “I Love NY” are some of the most successful community branding campaigns ever deployed. Some believe the purpose of these campaigns is to build community pride, but community pride is not created through an ad campaign. Community pride is intrinsic and must come from those who live within, who connect with their community in a positive way through their experiences.

The reality is it works the other way around. A successful community branding campaign relies upon the existence of community pride to assist in the building of the brand. For example, another successful community branding campaign, which was not really intended to be such, but was so successful it turned into one is: “Don’t Mess with Texas.” This campaign is an anti-littering campaign launched in 1985 by the Texas Department of Transportation and has been so effective it is still active over 30 years later. As a Colorado resident in the 1980’s and 90’s, I did not see one tourist with Texas license plates passing through our town who did not have a “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker on the back of his vehicle. People did not take the effort to put these stickers on their cars because they were passionate about the eradication of litter along Texas highways, but rather, that statement resonated with the people of a very proud state; a statement which said to all others who might cross their path, “This is who I am, buster,” in a finger-poke in the chest sort of way.

The Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce launched a branding campaign in 2015 through the Grow Northwest initiative. Our most recent project has been the labeling of the METRO bus shelters along Cypress Creek Parkway with the iconic Cypress Creek leaf. The project extends from the program’s Master Exterior Signage Plan, which was created through a series of community meetings with the assistance of D|G Studios. The intent of the program is to create a community brand which lets visitors and residents alike know they have entered a unique area of greater Houston, one that is more than just a loose knit coalition of neighborhoods and subdivisions, but instead a place with an identity where one can live, work, recreate, worship, and connect. It is also proven that physical branding brings the added benefit of reducing nuisance crimes like loitering, vandalism, littering, etc. This is because the presence of the markers indicate people are aware and paying attention to their surroundings which has a psychological effect on those who wish to engage in mischief. It gives the sense that someone is watching.

We are very excited about how these new additions to the bus shelters have turned out, and we hope you are pleased with them as well. If we are successful in our campaign, eventually when fellow Houstonians mention areas of the city like River Oaks, the Heights, Midtown, or Bellaire, then Cypress Creek is included on that list, and when people hear that name, they will have an understanding of what it means, and know it means something good.