To effectively create a brand for Geneseo, you first must learn how people feel about the community.

To effectively create a brand for Geneseo, you first must learn how people feel about the community.

How do individuals view Geneseo? What do they like? What don’t they like? What perceptions do they have of the town? Do those perceptions differ if the person is a lifelong resident verses a newcomer? Do business owners see the town differently from visitors who come to town to shop?

The entire process started more than a year ago when a small group gathered to try and find the best way to market Geneseo.

It was decided a collaborative approach would be best, and city officials were joined by representatives from other taxing bodies including the school district, hospital, library and park district as well as the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce.

To assist with the branding, marketing firm MindFire Communications, of LeClaire, Iowa, was hired.

In January, individuals were asked to complete a survey about the town.

“To best articulate what Geneseo’s brand is, we need to start with the people who know it best,” said Lynn Manternach, Phd., MindFire co-founder and president and brand arsonist. “We need to know why they think it’s a great place to live, work and play.”

Officials initially hoped to receive a 10 percent or 600-person response rate from Geneseo’s 6,000-person population. In the end, 2,032 qualified responses were received.

“We knew Geneseo was a city of engaged citizens, but we were still overwhelmed by the response and the number of people who would take 10 minutes to fill out a survey,” said Manternach.

Of the respondents, 57 percent lived in Geneseo, 27 percent lived in Henry County (outside Geneseo), 5 percent lived in the Quad Cities and 12 percent lived elsewhere. Eight out of 10 in the “elsewhere” category had lived in Geneseo or Henry County in the past.

The survey covered a “pretty extensive data set” said Manternach. “We asked a lot of open-ended questions, such as ‘Would you recommend Geneseo? If so, why?’ We wanted to understand the feelings behind the responses.

“The emotional aspects of a brand are important to communicate. We wanted to have the community’s insight,” said Manternach.

Once all the data from the survey was collected, those at MindFire prepared an aggregate data report for Geneseo officials.

“A brand doesn’t make a community great. It sheds light on what makes a community great. That’s why the brand development is based on community research. Now that we understand what Geneseo residents love about the community, we know where to shine the light,” said MindFire researchers.

The survey showed people viewed Geneseo as “inviting” “family-friendly” and “future-focused.”

Respondents indicated they liked Geneseo’s small-town feel, great schools, shopping/restaurants/downtown area and the community’s friendly/good people.

Results also indicated there was room for improvement when it comes to welcoming people to the community.

“We viewed that as an area we can work on and be more aware and more welcoming to newcomers,” said Geneseo Mayor Kathy Carroll-Duda.

Survey results showed people enjoyed Geneseo’s downtown area, as well as the “clean, well-maintained city” and “abundant parks and recreation.”

Respondents also noted the community’s “excellent schools” “strong-sense of community” “investment in green energy” and that it is “a safe place to live.”

“I’d not been to Geneseo before we embarked on this project,” said Manternach. “When we first started speaking to people, we heard a lot of love and excitement for the town. I thought it sounded too good to be true, like something from a storybook.”

Instead, Manternach said the survey data confirmed what she’d been told. “I was surprised at how well the initial description matched up with what community members said about the town.”

Fellow MindFire brand arsonist Jennifer Sautter, a Rock Island native, said she was familiar with the town “mainly from football games.”

“From the responses, we were hearing Geneseo is a cool place with so much to offer. It’s a small town, but it has so many conveniences. It really was the best of both worlds. Small and safe, but also with amenities. That’s a very unique thing.”

Using the survey data, MindFire representatives will next create a new log and tagline for the community.

Sautter said the color green and the maple leaf symbol have long been associated with the community, and MindFire plans to continue using those motifs.

A “family look” will be created for the logo, meaning different entities from the city to the park district to the school board can all use variations of the logo theme.

“It will give some cohesiveness to the logo and be something that can be implemented by all,” said Sautter. “The primary goal is to get the residents of Geneseo behind the brand and the vision.”

“The whole point is to collaborate and bring the city together so we can continue to move forward,” said the mayor. “With better communications, we can all be aware of what’s going on and how we can work to promote each other better.”

The new logo and community tagline will be unveiled on Saturday, June 17 during Music Fest.

“The logo itself is not just a flat piece of paper. It’s about embodying real people and real things,” said Geneseo city administrator Lisa Kotter. “We want people to see the logo and understand who we are and what we’re doing. We want people to get excited about the branding.”

“Our hope is to help make this community better and better. We want to hand over the tools to keep moving forward,” said Manternach.