22 Apr 2014

Mad Men's Brilliant Advertising Lines Apply to Economic Development

Alissa Sklar is the director of marketing for GIS Planning. She has extensive experience as a consultant, writer and educator in the fields of technology and communications. Dr. Sklar has a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts of Amherst, and has as worked closely with B2Bs and economic development agencies to assess, develop and implement social media strategies for business development.

Mad men economic developmentLast week’s start of the newest season of the award-winning AMC series, Mad Men, has got me thinking about some of the brilliant lines about marketing from the lead character, ad man Don Draper. A lot of them apply particularly well to the field of economic development. Even if you’ve never watched a single episode of the brilliant series, you will appreciate how these four quotes speak to place marketing.

“Even though success is a reality, its effects are temporary.” Economic developers often feels as if their worth is judged primarily by the last companies or organizations you’ve attracted to our locations. Since memories tend to be short, those successes quickly pale unless joined by new ones. While job creation and investment attraction is a critical part of your mandate, you may get little attention for the less glamorous but equally critical work we do to support and nurture existing businesses, or planning policy and infrastructure changes that will prove beneficial down the road. The pressure is on to ensure your organization is open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Do you feel you are doing all you can to gain a competitive advantage? Can site selectors and businesses easily find the critical information they need about your location, workforce, available sites and properties, industries and demographics? 

“We’re gonna sit at our desks typing while the walls fall down around us, because we are the least important, most important thing there is.” You didn't choose the field of economic development for the glamor, power or public recognition, because you know in your heart that your work is essential to your regional economies, in good times and bad. So when the elected officials are smiling for the cameras at a new facility ribbon-cutting or managing some crisis, you are already using every available resource to attract the next big success. Being constantly "open" for business means you must use technology to complement what you are already doing, because there is simply no other way to be sure prospective leads can quickly and effectively get the data they need to make their shortlists.

“People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.” This is as much a cautionary tale for the consumer as it is a cynical statement about advertising: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. As place marketers, we need to ensure we provide high-quality, up-to-date data and messaging about our locations, not just feel good imagery and empty promises. Make it easy for them to make their decisions by offering the information they need; close the deal with insightful analysis and interpretations that show off your advantages.

“Change is neither good nor bad; it simply is.” Greek philosopher Heraclitus made this observation some years before Draper, suggesting people have always struggled with change. As economic developers, we work to keep our existing businesses as successful as possible, while attracting new investment and opportunities. But industries change, mature or decline. New advances may prove to be bad news for legacy technologies.  Workforce skills may become more or less desirable in shifting economies. You need to help site selectors and businesses stay on top of these changes in your location with dynamic, up-to-date reports about demographics, workforce and regional businesses. 

Moreover, within the field of economic development, we’ve seen seismic shifts in site selection and investment research moving almost entirely online. The print brochures and trade show booths of 20 years ago have been almost totally eclipsed by the mobile-optimized site selection websites of today. You can lament the good old days and be left by the wayside, or you can adapt to the new and learn how to thrive. The fact remains that without a top quality site analysis website for your location, it's no longer possible to maintain any kind of competitive advantage. Visit us online today and get in touch to learn more about how your location can benefit.


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