The state of Colorado has embarked on a branding process to build a brand that will last and help unify Colorado to all stakeholders including residents, businesses, visitors and prospective businesses. This is a key part of the six-point "Colorado Blueprint" economic development plan that includes prioritizing the construction of a business-friendly environment, increased access to capital and the education of the future workforce.What is a brand and why is it important?It's easier to define what a brand is not. A brand it not advertising and it's not a kitchen sink of ideas. Rather, a brand is an organization's face to the world. It includes, but is so much more than, the company's name and might include how that name is visually expressed through a logo and how that name and logo are extended throughout the organization's communications. But most important, at its core, a brand is the way an organization is perceived by its stakeholders and customers - how do people feel about your organization?In this case, the brand is the state of Colorado. I've been fortunate to be included in a small working group called the Brand Colorado Council, working with stakeholders to help in a much larger undertaking to help build a unified brand for the State of Colorado. The effort, "Making Colorado," is a large-scale branding process for the state. Details of the program, as outlined on makingcolorado.gov, include:"Making Colorado" is the most inclusive, collaborative and ambitious branding effort ever undertaken by a U.S. state.Rather than hiring an individual branding agency to define who we are, we're tapping into the energy and expertise of individuals across the state with an innovative discovery process, collaborative positioning phase and inclusive identity creation, to build a brand for Colorado, by Colorado. "Making Colorado" will capture the spirit and energy that exists in Colorado today to stimulate our economy, streamline statewide programs and reintroduce our state to the rest of the world. Five months from now, at the Colorado Innovation Network Summit in August, Gov. John Hickenlooper will reveal the results of this unique collaboration. By defining what makes Colorado great, we can enhance the stability, development and reputation of Colorado for generations to come. They are seeking to answer the question of "What makes Colorado, Colorado?" by engaging up to 1 million people in the process. Clearly, it would be easier to hire an agency and task them with the goal of creating a brand. Instead, they've chosen the hard way - engaging the community and working with a variety of stakeholders to help define what makes Colorado stand apart from other states as a place to live, as a place to work and as a place to visit. A key part of the "Making Colorado" project is the Youth Ambassador Council made up of high school seniors from each county in Colorado. Colorado is filled with a variety of features and benefits and it would be easy to fall into the trap of simply listing the various positives about our state - the weather, the mountains, the lifestyle, the access, the variety of landscapes and the entrepreneurial nature of our people, to name a few. We also have a strong foundation from which to build. Among other attributes; Colorado is the fittest state, Colorado is ranked second in the nation for entrepreneurship and Colorado is among the leaders in small business start-ups.But as any marketer or salesperson knows, a strong brand cannot be built on features and benefits alone. These features and benefits, plentiful as they may be, are simply the supporting attributes that can help create a lasting and enduring brand to position the state.The essence of building a brand for the state is to create an emotional connection to our stakeholders and to create an inspiring, yet simple idea of the potential of Colorado. Colorado is a place to bring your business or start your business, Colorado is a place to live and a place to visit, Colorado is the best state in the country. What does Colorado mean to you? I encourage anyone interested in this process to visit MakingColorado.gov to share their feedback with the state as they build a brand for Colorado that will become Colorado's face to the world. Coloradans can share feedback on Twitter using hashtag #makingcolorado or share feedback on Facebook at Facebook.com/MakingColorado. Chris Romer is president & CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.
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