City advocates in the mid-1990s took on a task that Ald. Linda Nikcevich seeks to revive: the marketing of Wauwatosa.
Those efforts more than a decade ago were in response to the city’s poor showing in a Milwaukee Magazine rating of the Milwaukee area’s 50 best suburbs, when Wauwatosa was among the bottom 25, Nikcevich said. Community leaders who came together as Tosa Tomorrow responded by creating a “beautiful” marketing piece to better capture and present Tosa’s image, she said.
By 2005, those efforts proved to pay dividends, as Tosa moved into number 11 among the magazine’s ranking of 50 area suburbs. But in 2011, Wauwatosa toppled to number 35 in the best suburbs ranking, which Nikcevich said is due in part a lack of coordinated effort to continue to put Tosa’s best face forward.
“We may never be No. 1, and that is an OK thing,” Nikcevich said, but the city should be in the upper ranks.
“Wauwatosa is a great community and it has so much to offer, but it seems it is kind of lost in the shuffle on so many things,” Nikcevich said. “Wauwatosa needs to promote itself and stop being its own worst enemy,” due to a "hodge-podge" approach to marketing the city.
Nikcevich and her Common Council colleagues on the Licensing and Communications Committee unanimously recommended the city create a 10-member ad hoc marketing committee to tackle the issue of the city’s image once again. That resolution was adopted unanimously Tuesday night by the Common Council.
The ad hoc committee will bring together marketing experts, two aldermen and representatives with the Village Business Improvement District and the Chamber of Commerce to examine the city’s existing informational materials, promotions and web presence, and to provide recommendations to improve.
Creative marketing requires creative funding
The city recently created an economic development piece presented at a June event that was made possible through business sponsorships, Nikcevich said. In moving forward with a brand, she said, the city needs to be creative to determine not only how best to market itself, but also how best to afford the cost of such marketing.
Meg McKenna, executive director of the Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce, said an investment in branding the city is needed as the city aims to bolster economic development and the city’s overall tax base.
“Across the city, we have people who are ready to move the city forward,” McKenna said. “And to do that, you have to be able to show good pieces” that present Wauwatosa in the best light as businesses and families consider relocating in the city.
McKenna said the city’s recent comprehensive planning efforts, including redevelopment plans for and , “show the power of planning, and the use of experts to get everyone together. This is money well spent, when you can find it.”
Although the current economy, cuts in state aid and other issues continue to tighten municipal purse strings, McKenna said, “we do need deliberate marketing to meet the growth that is ahead.”
“It is kind of about budget, and no one wants to touch that right now,” McKenna said.
Cohesive marketing would embrace city's diversity
Before directing dollars to any marketing effort, the city needs a branding and marketing strategy, which the ad hoc committee will help surface, according to Nikcevich. The city has in its own backyard a wealth of marketing expertise among city businesses and residents who can help jump start the process through the ad hoc committee's review, she said.
“We need economic development. We need to promote the city, for the school district, for a lot of reasons,” Nikcevich said.
Nikcevich said Wauwatosa is in a unique position as it continues to grow and attract innovation, such as the , the , and the presence of on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Complex.
The city also has a unique mix of housing options, business districts and neighborhoods, Nikcevich said, and this diversity needs to be reflected in a comprehensive and cohesive way.
“We really have to look at this from the big picture. It is all part of us, but we don’t promote ourselves consistently,” Nikcevich said.
As the city’s seeks to jump start economic development and redevelopment, Nikcevich said, “you want to create a cohesive presentation.”
Nikcevich said the ad hoc committee will provide the city with needed expert analysis and recommendations on how to move forward with a unified look. The committee also will examine ways to underwrite creating that cohesive look, through sponsorships, advertising on city promotional pieces or other funding alternatives, with an eye on the return on investment.
As example, she said, the city recently invested $65,000 on revamping its web site, yet few city residents know about the site or its functionalities, which, Nikcevich said, “begs the question, are we getting the maximum value?”
“The ultimate bottom line in all of this is communication is key,” Nikcevich said. “Communication is what is going to make this community strong – connecting schools, neighborhoods, business districts.
“The city needs to do a better job communicating.”