DWNTWN El Paso

Years in the making, a long-awaited plan to sell Downtown El Paso is finished.

Details of the five-year marketing campaign and a new Downtown logo have been revealed, and the plan will be launched this week.

The campaign is funded by a quasi-governmental Downtown group that’s governed by a 21-member board made up of powerful Downtown developers, businessmen and professionals.

“Downtown is on the edge of the greatest potential for growth and improvement that we have seen since the early 1970s,” says Veronica Soto, executive director of the group, the Downtown Management District, called the DMD.

t has budgeted $200,000 to market Downtown, according to Soto. The district funds much of its budget by assessing Downtown property owners an extra 12 cents per $100 of property value.

Last year, the district hired an El Paso-based marketing firm, The Gutierrez Group, to implement a new Downtown marketing campaign.

But the effort to rebrand Downtown began with a 2006 study by New York-headquartered public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, aimed at transforming “Downtown into a vibrant 24/7 city center.”

The new Downtown marketing campaign implements that plan.

“You will begin to see the new brand over and over and over,” says Eduardo Gutierrez, principal of The Gutierrez Group.

A new logo will be seen in Downtown signage, at events, on flyers, the web, maps, billboards and retail directories.

The logo includes a papel picado-inspired sunburst image and the line “Eat. Shop. Play.” The two “o”s have been removed from “Downtown” to make “DWNTWN El Paso.”

“It is a reflection of our culture and the kind of thing that resonates in our community,” Soto says of the logo. “It conveys that sense of vibrancy, of something exciting happening, but it can also be used and repurposed by different entities in many different ways.”

Gutierrez says the image is arranged like a sunburst to reflect El Paso’s “Sun City” branding.

But the marketing campaign goes beyond a new logo and redesigned website, to be launched in the next two weeks at www.downtownelpaso.com.

The plan includes a streamlined permitting process for Downtown events, street banners, extensive media buys and a facade improvement program.

It will include a “wayfinding” program that will install a series of maps, signs and medallions in Downtown to help visitors get around, as well as the branding of new Downtown “districts” and the rebranding of existing districts such as the “Golden Horseshoe” shopping district.

It will also advertise and promote signature Downtown events such as Chalk the Block, Neon Desert Music Festival and KidsPalooza. But more importantly, Gutierrez says, it will implement “cross-marketing” initiatives.

For example, the clubs and restaurants in the Union Plaza District might advertise an after party, retailers in the shopping district might offer special promotions, or museums in the recently designated El Paso Downtown Cultural District might offer special programs during events like the Neon Desert Music Festival or KidsPalooza.

“We are being very sophisticated and detailed on how to bring people Downtown,” Gutierrez says.

The new campaign was revealed last week to city council members.

“Across the board there is a termendous interest in Downtown,” DMD board president Bob Ayoub told members of the Economic and Community Development, Quality of Life and Tourism Legislative Review Committee on Wednesday.

The five-year campaign is still in draft form but could also include a Downtown app, parking promotions, a Downtown membership program, and unified marketing efforts such as “5 Ways to Fall Back in Love with Downtown” for Valentine’s Day or “Downtown El Paso Doggie Day.”

Ultimately, though, Gutierrez says he hopes to do more targeted promotions.

“The long-term startegy for me is how do you target people on, say, the Westside versus the Eastside,” he says.

That requires more data, which has been vertually nonexistent until last year, when the Downtown Management District released the results of its first Downtown census, titled “El Paso Downtown Perceptions 2011 Survey.”

The report created a benchmark and Soto says the district hopes to build on that with this year’s Downtown census.

The census will also show whether the new marketing effort is changing people’s perceptions of Downtown, Soto says.


 

E-mail El Paso Inc. reporter Robert Gray at rsgray@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422 ext. 105.

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