Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce asks city to extend spending for marketing

rpulley@lsjournal.comMay 9, 2014 

Lee’s Summit has a much higher profile as a friendly, safe place with a great downtown and great schools than it did before its branding campaign.

The 15-month effort of publicizing the city’s new brand, logo and tag line of “Yours Truly” grew recognition of Lee’s Summit’s qualities by impressive amounts, said Jim McKenna, the community marketing manager for the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce.

McKenna on May 1 presented a summary of results along with a request to extend the program. He said that in coming years there would be more emphasis on directly promoting economic development.

McKenna told the council he’d been able to leverage the city’s investment of $131,000 for 2013-14 to nearly $700,000 of value by collaborating with businesses in co-op advertising and negotiating good deals with media such as cable television.

That’s turning $1.35 invested for each resident into $5.40 for the program, he said.

He said that in a recent survey, Lee’s Summit residents were much more likely to advocate their home as a place to live, following the campaign.

McKenna said more than 40 Lee’s Summit businesses and organizations have participated in co-op advertising, working together using the community brand to deliver a consistent community message.

“Now they match us dollar for dollar,” McKenna said. It has created a sense of opportunity, pride and results, he said.

The program is getting support from within the business community.

Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street is promoting shopping for Mother’s Day in a magazine, the University of Central Missouri next week is launching a cable television campaign to promote an MBA program it offers at its Lee’s Summit campus, among many others.

“I think overall it’s been a good thing for us,” said Jon Ellis, owner of Paradise Park. Ellis was one of a group who worked on developing the brand and getting the initiative underway.

It’s not a replacement for his businesses advertising, but does complement it, Ellis said.

He said having a consistent message helps various businesses’ advertising reinforce each other’s efforts and promote the community. Ellis said the results show Lee’s Summit is getting a reputation as a progressive, cool place for people to visit or choose for a home.

He said the program is helping him and other small businesses improve the effectiveness of their own advertising, benefiting from McKenna’s expertise.

“We’ve ended up improving our brand (Paradise Park), we’ve been able to understand better what we’re doing,” Ellis said.

In a recent promotion, Ellis said, McKenna’s program contributed $2,000 of a $10,000 budget for a give-away campaign on cable television that includes Paradise Park, Salon De Crist, Eskew’s Fine Jewelers, Summit Grill and Five Petals florist shop.

Ellis said that alone, spending his $3,000 share of the budget, he wouldn’t have made much of an impression.

But the city’s cost has been controversial.

Critics, like Councilman Bob Johnson, doubts the campaign has tangible returns such as increased sales taxes. However, Councilman Derek Holland said he wonders if the city is spending enough on marketing.

City Manager Steve Arbo said at the meeting he would later be asking the council to pass a resolution to fund the program at least three more years. The amount being considered is $126,000 annually for the next two years.

McKenna told the council that booths at trade shows is not the way to reach businesses leaders.

Instead, increasing awareness of the positive qualities of Lee’s Summit and an image of the city as a “concierge” will produce results the council seeks, he said.

“As a business owner, I want to know you’re going to make my life as easy as possible,” McKenna said. And executives want the quality of life the city offers.

He’s planning a website specifically touting Lee’s Summit as a place to do business. He said the marketing would continue the same themes but redirect the message so it connects with business owners.

Arbo has included the program in his proposed budget.

“It has the type of genuine touch and flare to it that works very well,” Arbo said. “If the city did this by itself, it wouldn’t have worked ... if the Chamber had done it (alone) it might not have gone as far.”

Arbo said there could be analogy with the city and its $180 million total budget to a company of that size spending less than $150,000 a year on its marketing.

“I’d challenge you to find any company of that size that spends that little for marketing,” Arbo said.

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