This week’s blog is from Elizabeth (Liz) Lubrani, self-proclaimed tree hugger and forward thinker who tirelessly spreads the good word about her passion in life, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens. Read on as Liz plants a few ideas about the issues to consider when cultivating your branding. FYI – – The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map…
HistoryWe started off as a 50 acre USDA Plant Introduction Station in 1919. In the early 1900’s food crops were rather boring in the United States so the USDA hired Plant Explorers (yes, that was an actual job title!) to travel the world and search for food products or commercial crops that could be grown viably here in the U.S. One of the many tested here at the Savannah station was bamboo. We had over 120 different varieties when the USDA owned the property and the locals dubbed us “The Bamboo Farm.” For 60 years the USDA tested potential new crops here in Savannah. The federal government closed the facility in 1979 due to cost cutting measures and deeded the property to the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 1983 for research and education.
A New PurposeIn 1995 an advisory committee was formed, a Master Plan drawn up and funding sought to develop the property into a botanical garden. In 2011, the Board of Regents approved the master plan and new name, “The Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm” (a bit long isn’t it?) and development began. That’s where I come in – part of my job was to rebrand the “farm” into a “garden”. All we had to do was come up with a new logo, develop a marketing strategy, start advertising with the new name and things would take care of themselves, right? Wrong. Rebranding is more than merely changing your name or logo. It is redefining who you are and engaging the public with your new identity. I secured an advertising budget (they had never advertised) and came up with a marketing plan, unofficially shortened the name to “Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens,” had the logo reworked, started engaging the public through social media, and added fundraising and educational events.
It Takes a VillageIt’s hard to brand yourself, it’s almost impossible to rebrand yourself when you have been an “institution” for so long and people are so familiar with what you were but not with what you have become. So here are a few things I have learned along the way:
- Everyone has to be on-board with the rebrand. It’s important to let your supporters and staff know that when they talk about you, they need to be sure to use the new name (this was a problem for us) and talk about your new purpose. .
- It’s about constantly keeping abreast of new marketing trends and coming up with new ways of engaging the public and your supporters. Don’t be afraid to try new things. .
- Never forget, there’s always room for improvement. Be open to ideas from others and run with what you think will work. If it doesn’t, always have a Plan B. .
- There will be challenges and change is hard. Let people know ahead of time that change is coming. One of the most challenging things for us was people were used to coming and doing whatever they wanted, parking and driving all over the property (very bad for tree roots and plants). Be prepared to re-educate and be prepared to lose a few supporters who don’t like the changes. It will happen.