Using Community Storytelling to Build a Brand

New Belair-Edison brand identity

Project Details

Client: Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. (BENI)

Goals: Define a marketing approach for the Belair-Edison neighborhood to increase name recognition and improve perceptions of the community.

Results: Developed and launched a new brand independent of the client’s branding, including a new brand identity, website, a premier program for real estate agents, and a re-invigorated social media presence through community storytelling.

The Challenge
Belair-Edison is a large neighborhood in Baltimore City with approximately 6,600 households, consisting of mostly single-family brick row homes built between 1920 and 1950. Located just a quick commute to downtown and major job centers, the community is an “urban oasis” with tree-lined streets and many parks, including a section of the 11-mile-long Herring Run stream. Housing in the neighborhood is affordable, making it a top destination for first-time homebuyers. The community has struggled with property foreclosures, crime, an aging main street, and real estate speculation that brought poor quality home renovations over several decades, eroding its image as a desirable place to live.

The project goal was to develop a more positive image of the neighborhood while motivating potential homeowners and business merchants to make Belair-Edison a place of choice to live and/or start a business.

The Process
At the start of the project, we had a good understanding of how the community saw itself, as Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. (BENI) has been working in the area since 1991. However, we felt the need for more data about external perceptions of the neighborhood and produced an online survey targeting people living outside of the community. The survey received over 400 responses, which provided key insights into perception challenges and potential brand development opportunities.

Using stakeholder interviews and brand asset inventory, we developed key brand pillars, identified target audiences, and created core brand messages to speak to their needs and present a new story about the community.

The Solutions
Focusing on the Belair-Edison neighborhood, and not the BENI organization, was a vital aspect of developing the community’s new brand. Creating a unique identity and brand experience that was independent of the BENI organization was essential to effectively reach and positively influence target audiences. Emphasizing the neighborhood’s convenient location and abundance of accessible green space, the tagline “Live in the city, play in our parks” became the rallying cry for the new marketing campaign.

With a fresh identify, marketing plan, and strategic approach to guide BENI staff through tactical implementation and outcome measurements, we launched, a custom-built website that showcases the dynamic neighborhood and is separate from the BENI organization website. A major feature of the site are photo-documented interviews with residents, new home buyers, and business owners, sharing their insights about what makes the community special.

As part of the branding campaign, we developed the Belair-Edison Main Street identity to build off the community brand and support the various initiatives to improve the commercial district. We also helped create and launch the Premier Real Estate Agent program, an exclusive membership limited to 10 agents that sold out in its initial offering. These efforts culminated in a celebration brand launch event with dignitaries, partners, community members, and local media.

Post initial launch, Sagesse managed brand and event communications, publishing monthly online feature stories of new residents and business owners, blog posts, monthly e-newsletters, promotional e-blasts, and designed collateral materials. Sagesse proactively managed the community and BENI organization websites, implementation of social media strategies and assisted with event production.

The Outcomes
Our efforts realized significant results, beginning with BENI receiving a major funding grant using the detailed marketing plan as part of its proposal. Editorial coverage about the community shifted, and website and positive social media engagement increased considerably. The regularly published email newsletters and blasts were extremely popular with area residents and business owners. The real estate professional outreach efforts have resulted in sold-out Premier Real Estate Agent memberships and increased investment from responsible home renovation companies creating new homes for sale, resulting in increased home values.