Lee’s Summit marketing begins to show results

rpulley@lsjournal.comJanuary 29, 2014 

Lee’s Summit is moving the needle on its public awareness in Kansas City and beyond.

How much is uncertain, said Jim McKenna, the community’s brand manager, but he knows that months of advertising in local media and in Springfield, Mo. is having a positive effect.

“We’re excited about the inroads we’ve been able to accomplish,” McKenna said.

Since the city contracted last year with the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce to implement the new community brand and market the city, McKenna has led that program. The chamber presented a progress report Jan. 23 to the City Council.

McKenna offers some anecdotal proof.

Lee’s Summit’s downtown festivals by various organizations had record-breaking attendance. A test program to market trips from Springfield to Lee’s Summit, that targets baby-boomers who are likely to take short trips with their children and grandchildren, resulted in 194,000 hits on a webpage that was part of that campaign.

North Star Destination Strategies, working with a committee from Lee’s Summit 360, developed the brand (with the tagline “Yours Truly”).

Chamber President Nancy Bruns said that North Star was so impressed with the results that it asked McKenna to visit their offices in Nashville to explain the program.

“And they tried to steal him away. He said no,” she said.

The chamber has combined city dollars provided for the project with private businesses in cooperative advertising, on cable television, on radio and in print.

“The private sector is matching us dollar for dollar for city money spent, we think that’s pretty good,” Bruns said.

A wide range of Lee’s Summit businesses have cost-shared with the chamber to place advertisements in regional publications, on leading Kansas City radio stations and on cable television on such channels as ESPN.

McKenna said the city was able to get good value because the cable market could be targeted to specific zip codes in the area, where the city could households with mothers who have two children within a 20-mile drive. Those households had an average income of $75,000, he said.

McKenna said businesses added $55,917 dollars to city money in cooperative advertising. By negotiating good rates it was leveraged to a value of $166,554 in advertising dollars.

“That’s conservatively speaking,” McKenna said.

McKenna, to help stop sales tax leakage, took the message to the Independence Center opening with the “Yours Truly” campaign there on Black Friday.

McKenna said the programs is going through three phases. First was getting the new brand up and running for the city and its website, then in its departments, and the third phase now underway is extending it to private sector partners.

McKenna suggested that the city might want to hire North Star to do a follow-up survey on Lee’s Summit’s image now. Awareness of Lee’s Summit was very low, in the initial survey, McKenna said.

“It isn’t what you think, it isn’t what I think, it’s what the numbers show,” McKenna said.

Other ways to assess results might be to look at average sales tax per person, compared to last year’s sales tax per person, to gauge “leakage.”

Looking ahead, McKenna said, the Chamber wants to work on promoting Lee’s Summit’s 150th birthday and to position the community as a regional leader for healthcare and wellness.

It plans to continue advertising with public, private partnership.

Council member Bob Johnson said he expected the amount the Chamber would be seeking to be about $120,000. McKenna agreed that is about right.

Johnson, who has been skeptical of the branding project, said it would be an issue addressed by the Budget Committee. He said the city doesn’t have the resources.

Council member Kathy Hofmann said she’d heard the brand being discussed on talk radio and that Lee’s Summit 360, the Chamber and other groups have united in the effort.

“I think its very, very good, from what I’ve seen and heard,” Hofmann said.

Councilmen Derek Holland, Allan Gray and Dave Mosby said they want to see marketing that directly targets businesses or brokers because the city wants to attract new firms to Lee’s Summit for jobs and increasing the tax base.

McKenna said the marketing “will resonate with business leaders, as well as people who’ll move here.”

Holland asked if the current effort could be “morphed” to accomplish that and if McKenna worked for the city or the chamber. McKenna was hired by the chamber under an agreement financed by the city.

McKenna said that if it was the perception was that he’s a city employee, it would be difficult for him to get support of private sector funding for the advertising. He said that uncertainty about the program continuing next year also causes some hesitation by private sector.

Council member Allan Gray said McKenna had done a great job bringing the concept a “long way.”

“The other decision makers beyond retail, we’d like to get their attention also,” Gray said.

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