Downtown Phoenix is giving itself an image makeover to raise its profile, both among out-of-state visitors and Arizona residents.

Following the lead of other major cities, Phoenix is looking to establish its own brand, the same promotional strategy that can launch a successful coffee chain or compact car. Las Vegas is known as an adult playground. Austin is known as a live-music destination. Phoenix hopes to similarly set itself apart.

Its new brand: “Arizona’s urban heart.”

“When we see downtown Phoenix, so much of Arizona comes here because it’s a political center, a business center, an education center,” said Eric Kingsbury of SHR Perceptual Management, the firm that the Downtown Phoenix Partnership paid $160,000 to help shape the new brand.  The brand touts Phoenix as the best place to have a cosmopolitan experience in Arizona, said Kingsbury, whose firm’s clients include Volkswagen.

A new brand alone won’t draw more tourists overnight. The partnership says this is the first step in a years-long process to build an identity for downtown.  Phoenix has a long way to go, partnership CEO David Roderique said.  “Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch” to say Phoenix is among the most dynamic metropolitan areas of the West, Roderique said.

But the beginning of that urban identity is taking shape, he added. The new $1.4 billion light-rail line, luxury condos, an Arizona State University campus, new restaurants and an expanded convention center have added some big-city flavor.  And the “urban heart” brand will provide the identity and marketing that Phoenix can build on over time, he said.

“First off, a brand or an image that you are portraying has to reflect the reality, but it’s also aspirational,” Roderique said. “This is what we are focused on becoming.”  For a brand to work, it can’t just be a lofty goal, marketing experts say. A successful brand must spotlight something unique about the city and deliver on what was promised.

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