Editorial: ‘Branding Falls Church’

The new “Brand Development Initiative” launched by the Falls Church Economic Development Authority (EDA) this week comes as a sight for sore eyes among those, most especially this newspaper, who have long been touting the need for an aggressive and comprehensive marketing strategy for the City of Falls Church.

The most important step taken to launch this was the EDA’s retention of a professional marketing firm, the Falls Church-based Smith Gifford company, to spearhead the effort. At last, the task of marketing Falls Church is not limited to the random musings of amateurs, no matter how sincere.

For better or worse, we live in an age of marketing, where some of the nation’s greatest creative talent works at Madison Avenue firms that devise images and slogans with sufficient powers of persuasion to sell just about any product or service imaginable. Thanks to this, America has become addicted to the notion of paying $200 for a pair of prestigious, “sexy” sneakers instead of $7, and since this has become the staple of the entire economy, when things turn sour as they have, the sound of air rapidly escaping the national economic balloon becomes veritably deafening. Still, there is an upside to marketing, too, because in today’s sensory-overloaded society, getting someone’s attention requires such an approach. If the products or services are valuable and meritorious, and not simply “sizzle,” then effectively marketing them benefits everyone. Such is the hope for Falls Church.

The problem for Falls Church is that while almost everyone who lives here knows of many good reasons for being here, there is no single, powerful way that anyone has found to express them. There is location, there are schools, there are restaurants and live entertainment venues, there is history, there is a sense of community identity. What is the most efficient, compact and graphic way of getting all that across to someone who doesn’t know about any of that, such that they will come to Falls Church to live or spend money? That’s where the notion of “branding” comes in. What is branding? When the words, “Skippy” or “Peter Pan” are evoked, a complete notion of factors associated with peanut butter, including smell, taste, texture, calorie content and more pops out of the memory cells in the brain. That’s the idea.

We wish the new venture in Falls Church success. We take credit for having pushed, pushed and pushed for this approach in our editorial columns for years. Now, we are heartened by an EDA that “gets it,” by the emergence of a local resident who owns and operates a highly successful marketing firm based in the City, and by the new Communications Director at City Hall, Barbara Gordon, who said explicitly upon her arrival at her new job a month ago that she wants to help develop and implement a marketing plan for the City. Doing so will bring dollars and provide great financial relief to City taxpayers.