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Wednesday July 30th 2014

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Smashing the Swave

The logo and tagline “The Upside of Florida” drew criticism when they were unveiled.

While several local designers criticized the new logo, Zimmerman explained in its Brand Book the three elements used in its design. Futura font indicated “strength and makes a more contemporary statement. The color break defined by a horizontal line represented “the emerald green water of the gulf and the deep blue sky.” (Brand Book)

The circular icon, which the agency called a “swave,” was an abstract image that combined a wave and the sun to form a “sun wave.” Local designers nicknamed the new logo the “surfing fetus.”

According to the agency, the new brand was created to make people, both inside and outside the community, believe “what is good about Florida is better in Pensacola.”

“Like all great brands, the City of Pensacola must craft a singular representation of what is real,” wrote the agency, “and what would be considered most attractive to its audience.”

One key audience that wasn’t impressed was the Pensacola City Council. Over a series of council meetings and workshops in September, the council questioned the new logo, the brand development process and the $1.2 million budgeted for FY 2013.

At the Sept. 5 public hearing on the millage rate for FY 2013, Councilwoman DeWeese was concerned with the accounting controls and policies to monitor the huge expenditure. She questioned the wisdom on how much of the marketing plan depended on branding the mayor.

“There’s a great deal of history to rely on in branding our city, not one individual,” said the councilwoman. “I think we’re stepping out a bit too far to market ourselves.”

When DeWeese made the motion to remove funding for the Zimmerman contract from budget, City CFO Richard Barker assured the council that the proper controls were in place and his staff reviewed all expenditures before they were paid. However, Barker admitted this contract was different from advertising agreements.

“This is something new that we’re looking at, a new program that we’re looking at, a way of handling it to see if the efficiencies are there in that new contract,” said Barker.

DeWeese withdrew her motion, but Zimmerman came up again at the Sept. 10 Committee of the Whole meeting. After Carrie Zimmerman made a presentation on her agency to the council, the leaders weighed in again.

Councilman Larry Johnson was worried that the Greater Pensacola Chamber, which had introduced a new logo and name change earlier in the year, and the city weren’t on the same page in how to market the area. Councilwoman Megan Pratt believed that the city was duplicating at a great expense the economic development efforts of the chamber and Escambia County. She also pointed out the city had been marked incorrectly on map shown in a television commercial.

Council members Myers and John Jerralds felt that their districts weren’t included in the marketing pieces and articles shown in the presentation.

“We’re paying them a lot of money to brand Pensacola, to tell Pensacola’s story and they’re proud of this story here,” said Myers waving a copy of an article from a Sarasota publication. “I’m not.”

The lone positive council member was Brian Spencer. “I thought today’s presentation was extremely educational and enlightening for me,” he said. “I was impressed with the penetration of some of the cities’ periodicals where Pensacola was represented.”

At the next public hearing on the budget, the city administrator aggressively defended Zimmerman and the use of the mayor in the articles.

“I truly am sorry that members of this council were offended that the city—but the city, not the mayor’s office—was trying something new here,” Reynolds said. “We are trying to market this great city for others to see.”

He said slowly for emphasis, “The focus of this is not Mayor Hayward, but Mayor Hayward is the mayor of the city.”

Reynolds said that no one else could do it better and the marketing and rebranding were necessary to reverse the trend of people and future tax revenues leaving the city.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, that ain’t going to happen by us sitting on our hands,” he told the council. He assured them that other parts of the city would be brought into the marketing. “This is a try, this is an attempt to make a difference. We need to secure every new person we can into this city to keep it growing.”

Again a motion was made to cut the Zimmerman Agency from the budget. Barker stepped up and argued that cutting advertising from the enterprises could have a dire impact on the city’s finances, especially with Pensacola Energy providing $8 million annually to the General Fund.

“If you stop this contract, it would take 180 days to get a new agency,” said Barker. “I’m unwilling to see that for these two major enterprises (Pensacola Energy and Pensacola International Airport).”

Barker said that prior councils had cut advertising. Customers were lost and “it took five to 10 years to get those customers back.”

Eventually the council would vote to cut the Zimmerman Agency contract from the FY 2013 budget. Mayor Hayward later vetoed the amendment to the budget and the council failed to override the veto.

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