Moving Mountains with Social Media: A Colorado Case Study

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.

Recently the citizens of Colorado Springs, Colorado discovered the power of social media to influence public opinion and government actions. Their efforts, which centered on a Facebook campaign, provide an outstanding example of the clout and viral qualities of online community. The Facebook effort ultimately convinced the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau to replace an unpopular tourism logo design with a new one having stronger local focus.

The seeds of public discontent were planted in early 2011. That’s when the Community Branding Task Force, appointed to develop a marketing brand for the city, picked an out-of-town firm to design the new brand. The city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled the brand on November 15, 2011, after eight months of research and development. The design consisted of a logo bearing a generic mountain image plus the city’s name, and the tagline “Live it up!”

Logo version 1

Local public reaction was immediate. People who didn’t like the logo and tagline flooded Facebook and Twitter with negative comments. Their criticism focused on the design itself, which many viewed as mediocre, with outdated typefaces. The tagline, in the words of one marketing professional, “made everyone envision Spring Break in Cabo [San Lucas, Mexico].” Others pointed out that at least seven other cities use the same “Live it up!” slogan. The Community Branding Task Force also came under fire when Springs-based marketing agencies complained about the selection of a non-local design firm.

“I remember that fateful Wednesday [in November],” said Tucker Wannamaker of Magneti Marketing in Colorado Springs. “I was part of a branding charette for this [project]. When they released [the final design], we just said, ‘Wow, we’ve got to do something about this.’ ”

The next day, Wannamaker and his business partner, Marcus Haggard, set up a new Facebook page called Rebrand the Springs, which proposed giving local designers and marketers a shot at producing a better logo. The page attracted 214 “Likes” by 9:15 p.m. that day, and within 24 hours, the page had acquired 500 fans. An online poll at VoteCOS.com registered 1,438 votes against the “Live it up!” design, and only 41 in favor. The local Colorado Springs Independent newspaper started its own contest to redo the logo. Within a few days, national media picked up the story.

With several other marketing and design firms on board, Wannamaker and Haggard set up a meeting with the Community Branding Task Force, which ultimately decided to issue an RFP for redesign of the logo. (The tagline, however, was to be retained.) The RFP generated 27 design candidates.

The rebranding effort was announced December 9, and on April 2, 2012 the Task Force announced its selection of a replacement brand. In its winning design, the aptly named Fixer Creative Co. of Colorado Springs combined an iconic image of the bluish Pikes Peak mountain, the red rock formations of Garden of the Gods – another local landmark – and a light-blue “C” inspired by the Colorado state flag. The image was accompanied by the city’s name, spelled out in contemporary typefaces. The new design was well received by the community, judging by many positive social-media comments and a positive total on VoteCOS.com. Moreover, Tony and Sara DeRose of Fixer Creative convinced the Convention and Visitors Bureau to repurpose the cringe-inducing tagline as a temporary ad-campaign slogan.

Redesigned Logo

Throughout the process, Wannamaker and Haggard’s Rebrand the Springs Facebook page was a hub for channeling popular disappointment, and refocusing conversation in a positive way. They also usedTwitter to send people to the Rebrand page.

“Social media make it easy for people to share,” Wannamaker says. “Apparently it had a lot of influence. It took a village to move the mountain.”

The moral of this story for businesses and other organizations, Wannamaker believes, is that social media provides a powerful communication channels.

“The value of social media is that you’re building up your own network,” he says. “It gives you the ability to respond to and interact with your constituents. As marketing needs come up, instead of having to spend all your money on ads, you’re marketing to your own network. It takes some effort and time but, ultimately, when you engage with people and they engage with you, it becomes incredibly powerful.”

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About NSI Partners

A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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