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Carbondale City Hall and Civic Center.

CARBONDALE — Using research gleaned from focus groups, interviews and community meetings, a branding firm hopes to define Carbondale’s identity — and, later, to polish its image.

In February, the city enlisted the help of North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville, Tennessee, to conduct a branding initiative aimed at sprucing up Carbondale’s reputation.

The firm has synthesized its qualitative and quantitative data into a guiding statement it calls the city’s “DNA definition,” which serves as the foundation of the branding project.

Robert Ketter, marketing manager at North Star Destination Strategies, presented the findings at Tuesday night’s regular council meeting.

Ketter, who is a Carbondale native, said the firm had conversations with about 1,000 individuals, including area residents, visitors and non-visitors.

Asked about Carbondale’s assets and strengths, respondents repeatedly brought up Southern Illinois University, the area’s natural beauty, diversity and inclusivity in the community, and the city’s music and arts scene.

Negative impressions included blight, rundown housing stock, crime and lack of economic opportunity.

The firm settled on the following strategic statement:

“For those wanting the progressiveness of a college town and the solidity of the Midwest, Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University and bordering the Shawnee National Forest, is where compassion is seen as strength and an inclusive and artistic community inspires engagement so you’re encouraged to both be yourself and express yourself.”

The council approved the DNA definition unanimously, with members saying that the statement accurately summed up the city’s uniqueness.

Approval of the statement will allow North Star to move into the creative and design phases. The project is expected to be completed sometime this fall.


On Twitter: @janis_eschSI



Janis Esch is a reporter covering higher education.

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