Riverside’s reputation as a suburban hideaway whose winding streets are difficult to navigate sometimes has been seen as a drawback, especially when it comes to attracting new businesses to its small, often quiet downtown.
Moving forward, however, that characteristic will serve as the linchpin of Riverside’s “brand” as the village sells itself to visitors, and prospective businesses and homeowners.
On Oct. 19, the village board enthusiastically gave a thumbs up to the phrase – Get Off the Grid — which will serve as the village’s marketing slogan in yet-to-be-determined advertising pieces.
Incorporated into the design of the ads are stylized representations of the village’s street plan, and pictures of places like the historic water tower and East Burlington Street. Examples provided to the village board on Oct. 19 included stock photos of people.
The final versions will incorporate actual business owners and residents, said Rob Grusin, president of Point B Communications, the marketing and branding agency hired by the village in 2015 to lead the rebranding effort.
“The very structure that Olmsted envisioned for the community – and when you look on a Google map and you see the disruption in the grid that’s all around us, Riverside is very different in that way,” Grusin said. “There’s a literal interpretation of the concept ‘get off the grid’ and there’s quite certainly a figurative concept here, too.
“There’s something different. It’s not your typical community.”
The draft ads shown to village trustees on Oct. 19 clearly were geared toward economic development and attracting new businesses, however the final marketing plan will address messaging to not only businesses but to visitors and prospective residents as well.
Kristine Herbst, chairwoman of the Riverside Economic Development Commission, which was tasked by the village board with the branding project, said the Oct. 19 presentation to trustees was to gauge their receptiveness to the concept before moving forward.
“It’s still unfinished,” said Herbst, whose commission has been working with Point B Communications on the branding effort for the past two years. “What you saw [on Oct. 18] was a creative platform. Now we’re at the point of how are we going to communicate all these things?”
Herbst said Point B came up with about 40 concepts before whittling that number down to three. The Economic Development Commission agreed that the phrase Get Off the Grid worked for particularly well for Riverside.
“The concept we went with was the one that was most tied into our identity,” Herbst said.
Trustee Wendell Jisa questioned whether a business owner would be attracted to a place that was “off the grid.”
But both Grusin at the Oct. 19 presentation and Herbst in a follow-up interview said the phrase meets a potential drawback head-on and attempts to capture those businesses for whom a place like Riverside might be a good fit.
“You’ve just got to deal with the hand you’re dealt,” Herbst said. “It’s who we are and that’s why branding is important. It won’t be authentic if we can’t live it and breathe it. Just be who you are.”
Now that the village board has given its blessing to Get Off the Grid, the Economic Development Commission will resume work with Point B to finalize the marketing plan, which could take another few months.
The marketing plan will also include options and recommendations for where the village should target its message – from a coordinated advertising campaign to simpler targeted messages on social media.
Those decisions will be decided in large part by funding set aside for future marketing efforts by the village board.
Last year the village spent $17,400 on the first phase of the marketing plan, which was to come up with a brand positioning statement, a new logo and a style guide for using the logo and images from it.
That work paved the way for a $42,000 redesign of the village’s website, which was completed in late 2016. The village also spent $10,000 to create short marketing videos.
In 2017, the village earmarked $45,000 for phase two of the marketing effort, which has resulted in the Get Off the Grid branding and preliminary advertising concepts. Phase two will conclude with the completion of the full marketing plan.