Photo 1: The City of Covington's Sarah Allan wheels Stacy Vest of East to Vest Productions into Covington Yard.
Photo 2: Vest and her costume proved a popular photo op. (Photo by Sara Drabik.)
Photos 3-5: (Photo CC Durham Studio)
Photo 6: Durham Brand & Co. poses with its work. (Photo CC Durham Studio)
New economic development brand, marketing message celebrates
city’s quirkiness, ‘vintage progressiveness’
COVINGTON, Ky. – We are who we are – authentic, engaging, a little bit different, sometimes quirky and irreverent … and we’re not going to apologize for it.
We’re “unapologetically Covington.”
And we’re inviting you to come be a part of it.
For the last few years, Covington’s Economic Development Department marketed the City to prospective businesses, investors, and transplanted talent using different versions of a branding message that touted Covington’s historic spaces and edgy charm.
Now that “message” has been adopted formally.
On Monday, Covington’s Economic Development team unveiled a new marketing vision for the department at Covington Yard during a colorful, multi-purpose event that saw the new brand celebrated in a variety of ways – gracing the covers of both an updated guide for new businesses and an updated annual “impact” report (more on those below) … as a “signature” drink … on newly printed T-shirts and tote bags … on an elaborate “wearable art” costume … through the testimony of two homegrown Covington businesses … and as the theme behind the second-annual Authenti-City awards, given to small businesses who epitomize the city’s appeal by “keepin’ it real in The Cov.”
Then on Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners gave the brand its legal blessing with a 5-0 vote.
Economic Development Director Tom West said the idea to formalize a new marketing vision – which includes a tagline, a logo, and a 144-word “manifesto” – had a multi-faceted origin:
- A recommendation from site selection consultant Garner Economics, who wrote a citywide economic strategy in 2019.
- Ongoing success in marketing Covington as a walkable, energetic, “different” community where employees – after being introduced to the city – told their employers they couldn’t wait to locate.
- And the need to improve on the existing Citywide logo, an anthropomorphic “C” made to look like a hand that alternately held hammers and pine trees and made an “OK” sign.
“Let me just say that that ‘C’ that had the hand on it wasn’t getting the job done, especially when our job in economic development is to attract talent, investors and developers to The Cov,” West said. “There’s so much noise out there on social media with all of our competing cities and communities, we needed to be very clean, very clear, and very memorable in what we say and how we say it.”
Covington-based Durham Brand & Co. worked with the City to develop the initiative over several months with efforts that included a public survey and sessions with local businesses.
“This was more personal work for me -- as I live, pray, eat (all of the above) in this city – than it was professional, but because it’s on both ends of the seesaw, it was a real true honor to be a part of it,” said Austin Durham, owner of the company. “The future of Covington is bright, bright blue as you will see, and I’m very grateful to be part of the progress and future of our city.”
West said the City wanted to create not only a small, visual logo but a narrative that captured The Cov’s personality, purpose, and potential. The brand’s “tools,” or “parts”:
- Slogan/tagline/catchphrase: “Unapologetically Covington.” It touts the City’s unabashed embrace of its quirkiness, diversity, and willingness to think big and push the envelope, in contrast sometimes to more mainstream economic development organizations.
- Logo: Three blue and white letters – COV – designed with a series of lines and an open “O” that can feature a photo inside.
- Manifesto: This statement captures “the brand.”
Amy Kummler, who owns Up Over Bar, is active in the MainStrasse Village events and issues, and is a 2022 winner of an Authenti-CITY award, read the manifesto at Monday’s event:
“Welcome to the bold side of the river, where timelessness meets the ventures of tomorrow. Covington may be a historic river city, but our beautifully preserved architecture isn’t for show, and neither are our rainbow crosswalks. We're not an attraction, we attract the bold and the best. And with the most diverse and accessible city government in the region, we encourage, support, and retain them, too. Everything we do is by The Cov, of The Cov, and for The Cov – all character, no chains. Our avenues are lined with locally owned retailers and restaurants, and our bars flow with Kentucky bourbon. This is where state-of-the art laboratories stand alongside 19th-century gothic basilicas. Where VC startups disrupt markets and family-owned hardware stores turn 100. This is where the past meets progress, where y’all really means all. We are unbridled, uncommon, and unmistakably confident.
Monday’s event was attended by local business leaders and owners and others engaged in the City. Many spoke positively about the marketing vision.
“I love the fresh look and bold colors of the new brand,” said Jill Morenz, director of Community Initiatives and Communications with the Catalytic Development Funding Corp. of Northern Kentucky, who attended Monday’s event. “My favorite part is the way the ‘O’ can be used as a frame for the City seal or photos.”
Said Patrick Hughes, an attorney with DBL Law, which recently moved to Covington: “The Economic Development Department’s new branding is truly reflective of the Department. It’s crisp, sophisticated, professional and effective. That is the message we want to convey to businesses about our City, and it is a reality!”
Monday’s unveiling was turned into a fun event with a lot going on, including:
- Owners of two small businesses with family-oriented origins gave short testimonies. One was Sergio Gutierrez, who opened OLLA Taqueria Gutierrez on M.L. King Jr. Boulevard last year and whose family owns the popular Gutierrez Deli nearby. The second was James Napier, who recently returned to Covington from Delaware to open Factory Finish Shoe Repair on East Seventh Street. Napier’s father owned the owned and operated Frenchman’s Shoe Service on Madison Avenue for years. Napier is a musician and also played at Monday’s event.
- Stacey Vest of East to Vest Productions – a creative Covington business that designs flamboyant wearable art, wigs and headpieces – on cue was “wheeled” into the event dressed in an elaborate costume depicting the new brand. As part of her costume, Vest herself was the “table setting” of a buffet table laden with brand swag and cookies from Covington’s Bean Haus Bakery & Café.
- Economic Development officials posed for a photo with leaders of The Center for Great Neighborhoods to celebrate that their joint Eastern Corridor Activation initiative recently won the American Planning Association’s 2021 Best Practices in Economic Development Award. (More about the award will come in a separate article.)
- The City awarded the 2022 Authenti-CITY awards to five winners: Riverside Korean Restaurant, Lost Art Press, Hierophany & Hedge, Anchor Grill, and Amy Kummler. (The City is publishing a short feature article about the winners each day this week, which is National Economic Development Week.)
- Economic Development also unveiled its updated BUSINESS GUIDE and its 2021 Economic Development IMPACT REPORT. The annual report is the second year in a row the City has created a document to list its economic achievements. Among the numbers: announcement of 1,641 new jobs and $57.5 million in new capital investment, and a reduction of Class A office vacancies citywide from 30.3 percent 10 years ago to 4.2 percent.
- Cookies, magnets, T-shirts, stickers, and tote bags depicting the brand were made available.
Durham Brand & Co. will work with Economic Development to develop collateral promotional and communications material as well as upgrade the department’s web presence to make it more effective from a marketing basis.
But Monday was about celebration of the business community.
“We just wanted to come together to celebrate the stunning momentum we’re fought so hard for here in Covington, as well as to brag about our businesses … since you’ve been such great partners,” Meyer said, summarizing Monday’s event.
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