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St. Joseph is like any other city in that it has a significant “to do” list that extends to supporting public schools, growing the local economy and helping lower-income residents achieve financial stability.

So it seems fair to ask, where does the recently announced community branding campaign fit with these other priorities? It seems fair, but this more closely resembles a trick question.

Branding doesn’t fit with these priorities. It is something else.

In our view, branding is best summarized as telling a story — in words, images, narratives — that connects with diverse audiences who otherwise might not fully grasp what makes St. Joseph what it is.

Branding is not a problem, nor is it truly marketing plan. It is a belief we have is something valuable that can provide a foundation for growth and civic improvement.

In this way, branding should be seen as a purposeful effort to capture reality — but perhaps not every rough edge — and put that information out in multiple ways and with such consistency that it is understood.

We welcome the broad-based effort that produced “Made with Uncommon Character” as a unified branding message for St. Joseph that will be reinforced in multiple ways over the coming months and likely for several years. We are familiar with the work that went into this effort, but we suggest the real measure of success is in how well this obviously fits with our city.

A group of a dozen local communications and creative professionals partnered on this project, and they shared their thinking:

The city is “uncommon” in many ways. It enjoys a distinctive place in American history, incorporating both a pioneering and rebellious nature. It has an entrepreneurial spirit that spans its past to its present. It is blessed with a geographic location and other assets that set it apart from other communities.

The city also displays an abundance of “character” in remarkably varied ways, from its architecture, to the cultural heritage of its residents, to its unique amenities ranging from the 26-mile parkway system to its significant museum collections.

“We are not like any other community around us,” says Kristi Bailey, who leads the nonprofit St. Joseph Community Branding LLC. “We are not cookie-cutter or vanilla.”

That message holds obvious appeal for potential residents and businesses wanting to be a part of a community with ... well, character. This understanding also can contribute to building a greater bond among people already here.

No one should expect a branding campaign to solve all our problems or meet all the challenges ahead. But we caution against underestimating the value of promoting a positive message about the attributes of our community.

For more, visit, which is intended to be a helpful tool for tourists, potential residents and people who already call St. Joseph home.

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