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Richmond spent $450k on branding campaign. Some say it's a waste of money, others thrilled

Richmond spent $450k on branding campaign. Some say it's a waste of money, others thrilled
Posted at 6:39 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 18:39:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The City of Richmond launched a new marketing campaign drawing mixed reactions from residents and visitors. CBS 6 traveled to three different ends of the city getting reactions from people. While many folks were excited about the project, some criticized the timing and cost of the campaign.

Mayor Levar Stoney's Office said it spent almost a year collaborating with the public relations firm West Cary Group, public officials, and community members to come up with an identity that reflects Richmond's current "pulse, energy, and soul."

Dubbed 'Richmond Real,' the campaign is accompanied by a logo in the shape of an 'R' and the phrase, "Real People. Real Places. Real Stories." Leaders said the goal is to highlight peoples' stories and advance economic development and tourism.

City officials rolled out a promotional video where Mayor Stoney emphasized the city is no longer "your grandfather’s or your grandmother’s Richmond.”

On Monday, CBS 6 visited Carytown, the Northside, and Shockoe Bottom to ask people what they thought of the branding. Most people had a positive response.

"It's just real people, real places, real stories," said Dalton Bee who was visiting Carytown. "It starts a conversation. I would put it on a cooler or laptop."

"It kind of goes with the whole inclusive thing," said Keisha Wallace who was visiting the Northside. "People have come here from different places. They have their own history, their own stories. I like it."

"That's nice and colorful. I like the design of the 'R'," said Amaya Brown who was working on the Northside. "We get a lot of people from around a lot of places. Everyone seems really real. This environment captures that."

"I like the 'R.' I like that you have the alliteration," said Jimmy Hu who was visiting Shockoe Bottom from out of state. "It's a cool logo."

"It brings out the colors. There are so many different types of colors and people here in Richmond," said Jeffrey Amankwah who lives in Shockoe Bottom.

However, a couple of folks said it wasn't their cup of tea.

"It just reminds me of those circles that we have in Richmond all over the place, to be honest with you, those roundabouts, just one after the other," said Scott Kocen who was visiting Carytown. "I wouldn't have gone for it. I'm more partial to the 'RVA' which we were allowed to customize to our heart's content, and that really symbolizes what we are."

Kocen referred to the regional 'RVA' branding, though officials emphasized 'Richmond Real' is specific to the city.

Another woman who was visiting Carytown raised concerns about the price of the project. The city has spent $450,000 taxpayer dollars launching the campaign.

"Something that really frustrates me is that we have a lot of issues in the city, and how much did this cost? That's a lot of money," said Mel Pruett.

Pruett believed the marketing campaign was unnecessary and she would've liked to see more collaboration from local artists on the campaign.

“We have so many logos for the city already. I just think the mayor and his administration are trying to do big things instead of focusing on the city’s real problems and I think this is an example of it," she said. "They don't put money in the right places."

Kocen agreed.

"That wouldn't have been my first choice of how to spend the money, especially with the roundabouts and all the roads that we need to repair," Kocen said.

However, Bee and Amankwah said it will be money well spent if it brings more business to Richmond in the long run.

“It starts with the marketing. It starts with grabbing peoples’ attention," Amankwah said. "And that’s when you can focus on making a difference, making a change.”

“You need something tangible, something you can see so you can promote it when you go other places," Bee said.

CBS 6 asked the following questions to the city's communications and engagement office Monday:

  • How will the city benefit from this marketing campaign?
  • Will the city continue making financial investments in the Richmond Real campaign on a long-term basis?
  • Why is spending money on marketing important right now?
  • How do you respond to criticism that the campaign is poorly timed amid all the other pressing issues facing the city?
  • What bucket of money is the $450k coming from?

Spokesperson Petula Burks responded to CBS 6's questions in an email, "Richmond Real is one part of our bold investment in outreach and engagement to include brand development, artistic execution, and the launch, which will span the summer of ’22. Every Richmonder has a unique story and perspective. We’re excited to have built this brand as a platform to amplify their voices, on top of its value as economic development and tourism tool."

Local businesses including Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery, Ruby Scoops, and Gelati Celesti will display signs and stickers of the new logo starting later this fall.

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