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Companies invited to join in Colorado branding campaign

Phil Castle, The Business Times: 

Companies can join in a new branding program designed to promote not only Colorado, but also the products made in the state.

In fact, Aaron Kennedy hopes to enlist 100 companies by the end of the year. The goal in part, he said, is to help customers realize “a lot of cool stuff is being made in Colorado.”

Aaron Kennedy

Kennedy, chief marketing officer for the state, detailed the branding effort during his keynote presentation at the Grand Junction Economic Partnership annual meeting.

Kennedy reviewed the year-long process involved in developing a new brand for Colorado and discussed how that brand now will be used.

Kennedy volunteered in 2012 to serve as chief marketing officer, bringing to a new position his experience as a brand manager and founder of a chain of fast-food noodle and pasta restaurants. “I’m really an entrepreneur in a government position,” he said.

A former marketing director and brand manager who directed projects for such corporations as Kraft, Pepsi and Sears, Kennedy founded Noodles & Company. Since the first restaurant opened in 1995, the operation since has grown to more than 340 locations and in 2012 earned revenues of nearly $300 million.

The Making Colorado branding effort originated as one of six major objectives of a statewide economic development initiative, Kennedy said. “What I’m doing is to bring corporate marketing practices to a state.” The goal, he said, is to nurture Colorado’s reputation and promote the state in a competitive global marketplace.

While Colorado already enjoys a good reputation, Kennedy said the state can’t rest on its laurels. He cited as an example the downturn in Detroit, a city once renown for its Motown brand of music and automotive manufacturing.

Rather than bring in marketing experts to tell people in Colorado how to brand their own state, the process worked in the opposite way, Kennedy said.

The process started with interviews with thousands of people across Colorado, he said. High school seniors were recruited as youth ambassadors to share their perspectives. A website collected suggestions and comments online. Meanwhile, research was conducted outside Colorado to determine which images and icons people most associate with the state, he said. While

47 percent of people responding to a survey knew the green and white license plates with the mountains in the background come from Colorado, only 18 percent correctly identified the Colorado state flag. Almost twice as many people thought the flag represented Chicago.

In developing a logo, it became apparent the design should depict a mountain and maintain that connection, Kennedy said. “It’s pretty clear we’re king of the mountains.”

It also became apparent a slogan should incorporate a number of important attributes, he said, among them the independence and vitality of Colorado residents, the economic opportunities the state long has afforded and the inspirational landscape. The position, he said, is this: “Colorado is the state where you can live the life you want.”

The state ultimately unveiled a logo featuring a green, snow-capped peak and a slogan that reads, “It’s Our Nature.” The new logo will be used to replace what Kennedy called a “mishmash” of different logos used by state agencies. In addition, the logo will be used as part of a new program to brand products made in Colorado — along with the companies that make them.

The program will help distinguish Colorado products and companies both inside and outside the state, he said. By one estimate, 60 percent of products made in Colorado are purchased in the state. Kennedy said he’d like to increase that proportion.

The branding program also will help consumers outside the state to identify products made in Colorado and encourage them to look for more, he said.

Branding also could help companies in recruiting staff and explaining the culture of the state and their own operations, he added.

There’s already been what Kennedy described as an “incredible influx of interest” in the program, and he hopes to soon sign up companies.

For more information about the Making Colorado branding program, log on to www.brandColorado.com.


Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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