There are many brands in the world, from soft drinks to laundry detergents to airlines, but what is a brand exactly and why is it important to tie it to a community? When someone says ‘soda’ or ‘pop,’ more than likely, a certain kind comes to mind. This is because people associate generic products with specific names. Branding is not the product itself but rather the association behind it. If someone mentions a Jeep car, some people may associate that with off-roading (the factual representation) and fun (an emotional representation). Identifiers help to define a product and make it stand out from others like it. In the case of communities, creating a sort of trademark showcases the good and attempts to create a positive association. Some businesses might use branded umbrellas from a good organisation that offers quality products to get their message out.

In order to create a name, it’s important to understand what makes the area stand out. Some places find it simple due to historical significance or another well-known product located within that area. These things define the community and offer more than just recognition. Often, they provide tourism and bring in visitors. Salem, Massachusetts, for example, is instantly recognizable for the Salem Witch Trials. Not only do the trials set Salem apart as a unique city, but the town has also built itself up around their distinct idea by embracing it.

Why is branding important, then, and how can it affect the local Economic Development office? Why should an area even bother attempting to label themselves and market to others?

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A brand helps to create recognition for potential residents, investors, and companies through a distinct message. Recognition is how a town stands out from all those just like it. There are many locations with the same population and economic position, but a unique stance will propel one over another and could potentially be the tipping point in both economic development and growth. Lea County has branded itself as the EnergyPlex, a collaboration of several different types of energy projects. This allows it to become more than just a place on a map-instead, it becomes a brand that people can recognize.

Attraction & Growth
Once a town has been recognized for its positive aspects, it can use those to attract both business and new population. Having an instantly recognizable brand can be a huge benefit when it comes to growing an area. If corporations are able to distinguish a community, it can make that place more attractive for their prospective business. Branded in 2008, the EnergyPlex has been successful in attracting several projects including URENCO USA, Joule Unlimited, Intercontinental Potash Corporation, Exelon Wind, SunEdison, and Eldorado Bio-Fuels.

Loyalty & Pride
A central brand is a great way to build pride, for both locals and new influxes of population. Pride and loyalty are both important aspects to have; they can help create a sense of togetherness and show to prospective businesses that people enjoy living and working there. As a brand, the EnergyPlex has encouraged pride through the creation of several new businesses that have included “EnergyPlex” in their name or marketing materials.

Branding can be an essential tool when it comes to economic development and attracting businesses along with creating a higher quality of life for residents. From Custom Water Bottles to massive billboards in well-populated places, branding is important for every business, whether they are established already or just starting out, it will help their image become better known. Economic development is essentially selling a locality to prospective businesses in order to grow and improve that community. By having a clear marque, an EDC can more effectively market to interested parties.