How Brand Storytelling Helps Revitalize Communities in Gainesville, Florida

By Patrick Sanders on July 21, 2016
Community Redevelopment Branding

Post reprinted with permission from the February, 2016 article entitled “Communicating Change” in Business in Greater Gainesville Magazine.

 

If you drive anywhere around Gainesville today, you’ll find development happening on almost every block. New developments and businesses are popping up everywhere, with a heavy emphasis in the southwest and the areas around the University of Florida. But when you find yourself on the east side of town, you’ll discover there hasn’t been much in the way of new development. In fact, many things haven’t changed in decades. The redevelopment and revitalization efforts there are in direct response to generations of neglect, oversight and shifting opportunities the community has faced.

Because redevelopment areas are normally plagued by systemic issues, a wide array of people are involved with addressing it. However, there is one group of people at the table that most people wouldn’t expect…designers.

Over the past year, Parisleaf has been entrusted with some very important assignments in the ongoing redevelopment and revitalization in East Gainesville. Our focus on branding and story building, the makeup of our team and our respective disciplines are ideally suited to fill the necessary roles associated with these efforts. While urban planners, architects, city commissioners, and local boards will seek to define the way a redeveloped space is built, used, or funded, our charge as designers, storytellers and branding agency is to envision the way people feel about a given space. We have the ability to naturally fill in the gaps around the development and adoption of a story. Consequently, we define how the story will be told, where it will be told, when and most importantly, why. Why are we telling this specific story, and why should people care? In order to do that successfully, we first need to intimately know the narrative that already exists and start from there.

In crafting our strategy for East Gainesville, we created a concerted campaign designed to aid the redevelopment and revitalization efforts not just over the duration of a project but for a lifetime. These types of projects, when implemented in other cities, will often focus on reawakening a community’s pride. Here, it wasn’t that our community was lacking in an identity or in pride. What we discovered was that this campaign had a more important task ahead of it: to reboot the way the entire city of Gainesville regards this special place. It was time to stop thinking of master plans and start creating action plans. Many social impact campaigns seek to reawaken a renewed sense of a community or a neighborhood’s identity and potential, and oftentimes, this can be achieved only by discerning both a powerful message and a meaningful exchange. There is nothing passive about a reboot, but be assured, when people believe in a message, a cause, or a campaign, it’s easy to be assertive — about both its potential and its outcomes.

So, why is a branding agency so well-suited for these types of challenges? At the core of what we do, our discipline deals directly with communication on a myriad of levels: visual, language, auditory and experiential. These same mediums are incredibly important to redevelopment and revitalization efforts that require strong communication tools along with a special partnership across a diverse set of stakeholders and shareholders.

But, despite all the energy spent on these communication efforts, how can we ensure the adoption of this story? How will the greater community at large endorse this new brand through investment and opportunities? Rebooting a city’s perception of an entire area requires new and inventive ways of exchange, and designers can offer us those ways. Creative methods and exercises composed to facilitate the exchange of ideas, stories, culture, and values — the very things needed to create a shared sense of identity we all believe in — are required of us as we reimagine what a new Gainesville without the designation of east or west could look like.

 

For details on the Heartwood neighborhood development website we built for Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, as well as a gorgeous presentation book, see our Look East case study.

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About Patrick Sanders

Patrick was born to lead teams. Patrick’s enlightened aesthetic takes our clients’ projects to new levels. He’s a wonderful listener whose attention to detail and mighty work ethic translate into beautiful jobs well done. When he isn’t juggling plates at Parisleaf, he’s designing plates at home with his love for cooking.

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