Downtown Astoria's hired marketing guru gave another sparkling performance to a captive audience at The Columbia River Maritime Museum Wednesday night. The meeting with Michele Reeves focused on "branding" for downtown Astoria. The audience was "captive" because, for reasons unknown, the museum staff locked the front doors at museum closing which prevented late arrivals from joining the meeting and a number of participants discovered that if they left the building for a quick run to the car for a forgotten item they were unable to get back in the building. For the 70 or so who stayed in the Kern room it was an evening of audience participation as Reeves continues to gather information leading to her final recommendations for the revitalization of the downtown blocks.
Reeves started her presentation by talking about what "branding" is and what it is not. She said branding isn't about bragging and she showed some examples of branding statements that cities make about themselves. She pointed to "Portland, A City That Works" as a good example of an ineffective statement of what the city is about. She said many American cities use that tag-line. She said that in publications like visitor magazines it's important to show people doing things on the cover because humans are pack animals, in other words, people like to do what other people are doing. She said publishing a scenic picture on a cover of a publication intended to attract people is truly ineffective.
After making a few more points about branding the audience, made up primarily of business and property owners, were spilt up into separate groups and asked to respond quickly to a series of questions about Astoria. A moderator for each group was responsible for writing down the answers which were one or two word "top of mind" responses. One interesting outcome of that process came with a question about how participants want to feel about downtown. Reeves told KAST news that in most communities where she has done this exercise the number one response by an overwhelming majority is safety. Feeling safe often appears because those communities seeking revitalization are often perceived as high crime areas. Astoria respondents over whelming choice was different. Most people responded with the word "pride", or "proud" as the first thing they wanted to feel about downtown Astoria. Safety did show up as a response but generally coming in at number four or five on the short lists.
Reeves said that she would be taking all the lists from the groups and compiling those to create a profile that would be part of her final recommendations.