Local Commentary

Editorial: Marketing Falls Church

Falls Church’s Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation folk have the right idea. They’ve decided to morph their annual festival into a weekend-long blues fete, not only to celebrate Afro-American culture and heritage, but to contribute to the economic vitality of Falls Church by drawing crowds from throughout the region.

They’ve stated that the economic component of their effort is central to their mission. At the annual Memorial Day Parade in Falls Church Monday, they circulated fliers about the upcoming blues festival that spoke to the thousands of outsiders visiting the City for the parade. “If you are having fun today,” the flier said, “Then come on back on June 13-15!”

It’s akin to the News-Press’ advertising in culturally diverse publications and at events around Northern Virginia and the District. In addition to touting its reputation as “the most progressive newspaper in Virginia,” the News-Press has added a tagline to its ads that says, “We want YOU in Falls Church!” Yes, this is marketing to the wider D.C. area about what Falls Church has to offer: among other things, a blues festival and a welcoming newspaper.

It is ironic, in this context, that while organizers of the annual Memorial Day Parade in Falls Church, another smash hit this Monday, allowed Cox Communications to market itself, for a few shekels, by splashing its logo all over the signage and other parade promotions, they did nothing to market Falls Church businesses. In fact, restaurants on Broad Street were nearly empty during the parade, while revelers were consuming the food sold by outside vendors at the parade site.

Also, the City did nothing to promote itself as a return destination for music, arts, shopping or dining. On Memorial Day, it attracted up to 20,000 new people to town, and they all left no more aware of what they might want to return for than when they first came, except for those that saw the Tinner Hill Blues Festival flier, that is.

We’ve chastised City Hall for this in the past, for its failure to take advantage of what a fabulous economic development magnet the State Theatre is, for example, especially but not limited to when it is host to the annual Wammies awards ceremonies. The City has no marketing plan, whatsoever. A scan of the City’s annual budget proves it. There is not a single line item that speaks to that notion. Arlington County is stepping up marketing efforts to attract business, including advertising in the regional business journal to promote its talent pool, and includes a website, “www.Arlington.us/Think.” Its marketing slogan is, “Brainpower: Arlington’s Alternative Energy.”

With all the new development going up in Falls Church, it will take a lot of outside dollars to make the new retailers and restaurateurs successful. But be mindful, marketing is not something that happens by a handful of well-meaning citizens scribbling on a napkin.

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