With 65,000 square feet of new retail space now under construction and coming on line within three years in the City of Falls Church, the City’s Economic Development Authority is poised to launch a business recruitment effort targeting 67 prospects identified in a study as “a good fit” here. A new City logo associated with the effort, however, has been greeted with mixed reviews.
The marketing new thrust will come in the form of the mailing of a newly-prepared brochure highlighting the positive lifestyle and demographics of the City to the 67 businesses that include such names as My Organic Market, Best Buns and Politics and Prose booksellers. The EDA will also launch a push, via e-mail, to over 250 retail brokers.
The lists were generated as part of a comprehensive marketing consulting effort for the EDA by Heather Arnold of Retail Compass. Arnold, who worked in an earlier Street Works consultancy for the City, developed the “branding” and “marketing pitch” for selling the City’s retail space to prospects, as well as the brochure that is adorned by a fresh, and disputed, logo.
The logo is a cartoon of a tree, an awning and an outdoor dining table and chair. While some consider it fresh and descriptive, others have questioned its professional edge.
Ironically, while the City is home to three professional marketing firms that specialize in, among other things, developing logos for their clients, they were all passed over in the effort to devise the EDA’s new one.
For example, Matt Smith, the principle of the Smith-Gifford firm resides in the City as well as having his business here. With two children in City schools, he devised free of charge last year the colorful logo that is now the official “brand” of the Falls Church City Public Schools. He was not approached to help with the EDA effort.
Instead, the EDA logo was generated from an open “branding meeting” convened at the Community Center by Arnold last March. Over 50 citizens shared their ideas and created the concept for the cartoon-like drawing which was subsequently refined by Arnold and a City graphics specialist and unveiled by the EDA last month. It was, in other words, designed by a committee of lay people.
The new logo “captures exactly what the group attending the branding session wanted,” Becky Witsman, Falls Church economic development specialist, told the News-Press. “In conjunction with its slogan, ‘Rediscover the City of Falls Church,’ it is designed to attract new retailers and retail brokers.”
But the logo is problematic to some in the City with an eye for such things. One City resident, commenting anonymously, remarked, “Is that a logo or a drawing of something? If it is a logo and a committee did it, then that truly reflects the most dysfunctional part of the City. No vision or ability to take an idea and translate it into something magic. Unfortunately it is more of the same vacuous stuff that these sorts of groups do. The plan seems sound, it’s the creative (art) that sucks. And you know what? No one will see the plan. They will see the creative.”
“Well, it’s cute,” said Sally Cole, executive director of the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce. Having attended the “branding meeting” last March, she told the News-Press that “it’s almost exactly what Heather drew as her impression of what people were saying that night.”
Cole said she was “disappointed” there wasn’t a follow-on meeting to finalize the logo before it was adopted.
“It’s very generic. There’s no unique selling point to it,” said Donna Englander, executive director of the Falls Church Education Foundation.
Whitson was not able to report which of the 67 on the list of target retailers devised by Arnold had been, in one way or other, preliminarily sounded out about any current expansion or relocation plans before being included.
But she said that most of the retailers and brokers are not aware that so much new retail space is now in the pipeline in Falls Church, and the brochure with the new logo is aimed at informing them.