Concord Downtown Development Corp. launches new branding initiative

The Concord Downtown Development Corp. has launched a new branding campaign, with the goal of uniting business owners and informing visitors of downtown’s offerings.

The former logo, or brand, was a one-color, rigid, architectural-style view of downtown with the Historic Cabarrus Courthouse as a main focus.

The new brand keeps the courthouse as the main focus but adds color and other design features that highlight the area’s shopping, dining, arts and even the nearby Memorial Garden.

Under the graphic is the tag line “Just stroll,” meant to convey that downtown is a place to relax and capitalize on the area’s historic Union Street and other attractions within walking distance.

Diane Young, executive director of CDDC, said the effort was part of a strategic planning process that started in 2013.

“It bubbled up to be one of the No. 1 goals of our promotions division,” she said. “It literally took us a year of talking with consultants, looking at proposals and figuring out how to fund it.”

Roughly $15,000 was budgeted for the effort. That paid developing of the logo and tag line and updating marketing materials, such as letterhead, business cards, website and email signatures.

No brand has ever been used throughout downtown, Young said. This initiative aims to allow business owners and residents to integrate the new logo and tag line into any promotional materials they may distribute.

“This is not just our logo. It is (everyone’s) brand,” Young said. “We were very insistent that our graphic convey there are a lot of good things happening in downtown.

“There are a lot of ways to enjoy downtown Concord, and that’s our strength: We are tiny, but we’re diverse and we’re getting more diverse all the time,” she said.

The new design is meant to create an emotional response, Young said. If you look closely, the courthouse is flanked by a wine glass that resembles a flower, a shopping bag and a paintbrush. There’s also a knife and fork noticeable in the image and the clock reads 5 p.m., which hints at the start of a good time.

The winning graphic was chosen over a skyline view of downtown and a stained-glass window image that featured downtown’s attractions, Young said.

Other tag lines considered included “More than meets the history,” “Southern charm, artistic flavor, historic roots,” “Historic character, ageless fun” and “Historically charming.”

The various shades of blue found in the image are meant to convey trustworthiness, while the orange is currently favored by millennials, according to Whirlwind Creative, the Harrisburg-based design firm that created the logo, which is meant to appeal to multiple generations.

The launch of the logo and tag line is the first phase of the branding initiative, Young said. In coming months, the CDDC will create a visitors’ guide and business directory.

Downtown merchants are divided about the logo and tag line.

Dan Levinson, owner of Ellis Jewelers, a 61-year-old downtown business, approves.

“I think the main reason they did it is we want people to know downtown encompasses a lot of different things,” he said. “You’ve got retailers … but also we’ve got tremendous dining down here … and the arts. There’s a whole huge experience to be had down here.”

Levinson loves the tag line as well.

“We’ve got the whole package,” he said. “Everything’s firing on all cylinders … and people can do this all on foot.

“You can walk everywhere once you’re down here. It really represents our pasts, but it also represents our future and where we’re going.”

Jerry Talbert has run his upscale men’s clothing store in downtown for five years. While he wasn’t enamored with the previous architectural design, he’s not too enthusiastic about the new one, either.

“I don’t agree with it,” he said. “I think it looks too Disney. It doesn’t capture the ambiance of downtown to me. It looks too juvenile. It’s just not sophisticated.”

He’s not too impressed with the tag line, either.

“ ‘Just stroll’?” he said. “I don’t get it. Why would you want to just stroll? I want people to come buy.

“I can see making downtown a destination shopping place, and if they have to brand it, then brand it as such. Maybe the concept is good, but the artwork doesn’t lend that to me.”

Robert Burrage, owner of Li’l Robert’s Place on Union Street, said he likes the design’s modern feel and how it successfully ties together the various offerings available downtown.

“I think it’s very helpful,” he said. “The old one has been around so long, I guess I’m kind of desensitized to it. This one’s definitely more noticeable … and it lets people know there’s other stuff here than just old buildings.”