Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Reality of Downtown Elgin

Perception is reality, right?

Well, that's the topic for today, ladies and gentlemen.

The fact that people believe perception is reality is the reason why marketing works.

Does Brand X detergent really do a better job than Brand Yat getting your clothes that heavenly shade of white?

Probably not. But the point is, marketing changes perceptions. Therefore, marketing changes people's views of reality.

All you conspiracy theorists out there might see this as evil -- that marketing makes people believe things that aren't actually true. Some marketing does. Just look at all the negative campaign ads out there right now.

Fortunately, we all have brains. Unfortunately, not all of us choose to use this gift to its full capacity.

But here's the great thing about marketing: Its power also can be wielded for good. A solid marketing campaign can clear up misconceptions and bring the truth of reality into the light.

What the heck does this have to do with downtown Elgin, you ask?


You may have read in the papers that the Elgin City Council recently approved an expenditure of $75,000 for a marketing firm called Moveo. This firm will work with the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce's Enhancing Elgin committee -- a group of volunteer community leaders with diverse backgrounds in communications, marketing, sales and public relations -- on a results-driven marketing campaign to change people's perceptions about Elgin.

You also may have read the anonymous outcries from the peanut galleries that throwing money at another marketing firm will not "fix Elgin's image."

The reality is, today Elgin has more to celebrate and market than it did 10 years ago. But the majority of perceptions hanging around out there are based on Elgin circa 1998. And I'd guess that the state of downtown Elgin in 1998 has some effect on this perception issue.

Think back to 1998 for a minute. Was The Centre of Elgin bringing in more than 1 million visitors per year? Oh yeah, The Centre wasn't even built yet.

Were acts such as blues legend B.B. King performing at the Hemmens? After the show, were audiences able to wine and dine at establishments such as Elgin Public House, Villa Verone and Mad Maggie's?

Were more than 500 people living in upscale condos and townhomes in the downtown area? Did downtown have the lowest crime rate of any neighborhood in the city? Was the Gail Borden Public Library bringing in colossal exhibits about dinosaurs and space exploration? Were thousands of people coming from throughout the Chicago area to enjoy summer events in Festival Park?

These are just a few of today's realities in downtown Elgin that our lagging perceptions from Elgin circa 1998 often cloud over. These are the types of things that a successful image campaign can bring to light.

Do you want to know what is even more powerful at changing perceptions than all the flashy print ads, bus billboards and TV commercials money can buy?


You have the power to change how people perceive Elgin. You can perpetuate the Elgin of 1998, 1988, 1978 or whatever decade in which those people who comment from the peanut galleries are stuck.

Or, you can help us market Elgin 2008, and bring some truth to the statement "perception is reality."

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