CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

November 18, 2012

City eyeing branding firm to strategize area marketing plan

By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times

— What exactly is Cullman? The answer depends on who you ask, and in recent years locals have responded with praise of the city parks department, details on the burgeoning downtown district and news of the highly-touted local school system.

But can there be just one answer that captures every aspect of a community?

City officials hope so, and they’re eyeing a partnership with Atlanta-based marketing firm Son&Sons to try and figure it out.

“We’ve gotten to the point with all these great things that the wheel is rolling, but it’s rolling haphazardly, and after the [April 2011] storm we have small business owners taking renewed pride in downtown, and the school system is now ranked No. 2 in the state,” council president Garlan Gudger, Jr. said. “We’re at a point where we feel like we need to take this momentum and capitalize on it before it fades away. We need a direction.”

Hoping to build on the recent launch of the Rock the South concert, ongoing negotiations with musician Sara Evans to bring a festival to the city, and annual events like Oktoberfest and Christmas in Cullman seeing record attendance, city officials have already been considering plans to fund or hire a tourism director. The council has asked Son&Sons to work up a proposal, which they hope to review in the coming months.

Once the process begins, Son&Sons will meet with Cullman residents in numerous facets of the community in an effort to build a cohesive image of what makes the area unique.

“We’re getting ready to go down the avenue of tourism, but we don’t have everyone connected,” Gudger said. “You have CRMC doing great things over here, the chamber over there and parks over here. If we can get everyone on the same page to represent and bring this community together, we could do some great things.”

Cullman Mayor Max Townson tried to boil the issue down to one simple question: “What do we want to be?” he asked.

His answer: “A destination.”

John Hunt, director of the city parks department, said he believes a branding plan could finally be the way to give all the different departments a cohesive message to deliver when people ask about the community.

“If we could come up with, basically, what everyone says to describe Cullman to the public that would be wonderful,” he said. “One thing I do know for a fact is that a lot of people come and look at our community, especially in parks and rec., and people always ask what makes Cullman special? To be able to do this sort of gives us a way to answer that question. I’d love to be able to answer that in a way that we’re all on the same page. We know we have a great city, so let’s make sure everyone else knows it, too.”

Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce chair Charlie NeSmith said the initiative sounds like a great idea, and he hopes it will lead to more unity among local agencies and organizations.

“This is probably something that needed to be done even before now, but there are a lot of things going on right now and it’s the perfect time to get it done,” he said. “Anything that can unite all the entities in Cullman County and get them all on one page is a big accomplishment and helps in everything al the organizations are trying to do. The biggest thing would be to really get everyone on the same page.”

Son&Sons has worked with companies such as Coca-Cola on advertising campaigns, and was recently hired to rebrand the downtown community of Midtown Atlanta.

“Cullman represents a very unique challenge and our job is to help you find that opportunity, shine a light on it and bring it to the world,” Son&Sons representative Rick Anwyl said.



Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.