A regional rebranding effort unveiled Monday highlights the wide-open business and personal opportunities that research shows to be Bakersfield's and Kern County's most attractive assets.
The series of blue and green logos and taglines introduced by government and business leaders label Kern "Grounded & Boundless," while Bakersfield is showcased as "The Sound of Something Better" — references to survey data showing the area stands out for its traditional roots, social mobility, welcoming attitude and wealth of natural resources.
The messages were specifically designed to be inclusive and flexible enough for use in everything from business recruitment to promotion of local tourism. And while no advertising campaigns are envisioned in the near term, members of the committee that guided the effort say the images may soon show up on government vehicles, municipal signage and, ideally, local businesses' marketing materials.
Not evident in the taglines and logos but implicit in the wider effort is a recognition that the city and county suffer from low self-esteem. Surveys conducted within the past two years found residents' perceptions of Bakersfield and Kern — a focus on blemishes like poor air quality and low educational attainment — were more negative than those of people living elsewhere in the Central Valley, as well as in Southern California and the Bay Area.
That discovery, along with a desire to present a consistent message to companies considering doing more business in Kern, prompted what organizers call an "unprecedented collaboration" among the City of Bakersfield, the County of Kern, the Kern Economic Development Corp., the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and 15 private-sector partners.
Together the parties pitched in close to $200,000 to hire Nashville, Tenn.-based North Star Destination Strategies to conduct research, come up with a rebranding strategy and develop advertising-ready materials over a period of nearly two years.
The result appears to be the region's first fully coordinated marketing effort, one that organizers hope will be adopted by other municipalities across the county and which may eventually appear in paid advertisements in national publications. The materials are expected to debut on social media almost immediately.
Bakersfield's City Council is scheduled to review the materials Wednesday and possibly vote on whether to display them on municipal property. Kern's Board of Supervisors, too, will be asked to vote on adopting the rebranding strategy, a county official said.
Five distinct but unified elements came of the effort:
• The county's tagline features the word "KERN" in gradations of light to darker green, which a county official says speaks to Kern's agricultural history;
• The city's tagline emphasizes the words "Something Better" in green script below a logo centered around a lower-case letter "B" with four lines behind it, a reference to either guitar strings or sheet music, according to the rebranding committee members;
• KEDC's tagline — "Kern County, California, Where Business Is Boundless" — has green, interlocking geometric figures in a central logo;
• New imagery designed for Visit Bakersfield, the city's convention and visitors bureau, includes an update to the squiggle-like logo adopted by the city more than a decade ago; and,
• The new tagline of the chamber of commerce, "Building Something Better," contains the same central logo of the "B" in the city's imagery, the difference being in the slightly different wording and a bluer hue.
Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh said in a news release that the rebranding effort positions Bakersfield for growth and helps "write a new narrative about our city and county."
"Our communities power California in so many ways," she stated. "We're proud of our heritage and optimistic about the future."
Nick Ortiz, president and CEO of the chamber of commerce, said the committee that worked with North Star to develop the logos and taglines focused on what data showed to be the area's "core values": accountability, self-determination, grit to feed the world, natural beauty and a pro-business attitude.
County spokeswoman Megan Person emphasized the campaign is not intended to serve as a kind of "Band-Aid" covering up challenges local government still needs to address. Those will continue to be worked on, she added, as the county and others involved take time to celebrate the area's often-overlooked strengths.
Bakersfield Assistant City Manager Chris Huot said the rebranding campaign will dovetail with the city's plan to refocus on economic development following a state-mandated end to formal redevelopment activities across California in 2012.
He said the logos will serve the city well as it prepares to reach out to businesses outside the area and deliver on the promises of Measure N, the 1 cent sales tax increase approved by voters in November.
With unveiling of the rebranding materials now behind it, the committee of about 10 local stakeholders that helped create the materials expects to take a little time off. But one of the committee members, KEDC Vice President Cheryl Scott, said the group will continue to meet and shepherd the campaign's rollout.
"We can't let it come undone," she said.