Manning has launched a new commuinty brand — Manning, It’s refreshing! This billboard on the east side of the city is part of a comprehensive marketing strategy for the messaging mission.
Manning has launched a new commuinty brand — Manning, It’s refreshing! This billboard on the east side of the city is part of a comprehensive marketing strategy for the messaging mission.
Friday, August 3, 2012

MANNING — Manning, home to the oldest town celebration in Iowa, long has had a separating quality among the Hawkeye State’s small cities.

Now Manning residents have a way to say it that sticks.

The town of 1,500 people has a brand, carefully cultivated phrasing and images aimed at creating an inviting sensation.

Manning, It’s Refreshing!

“Oftentimes,  Manning people really don’t know how good they have it,” said Ron Reischl, president of the Main Street Manning Board.

Main Street Manning and other community leaders gathered Thursday evening in their city’s Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to roll out the brand, the culmination of two years of efforts involving dozens of Manning advocates.

“The hope is that when they hear the word ‘refreshing,’ they’re going to think of Manning,” said Dawn Rohe, city administrator for Manning.

The mission of the message: brand Manning as a place to live a life less ordinary. Whether it’s dealing with local merchants instead of cold chains, hearing your name in the grocery aisle or at the local welder or not living as an anonymous drone in the cookie-cutter suburbs of larger cities, life in Manning, in ways large and small, is just, well, refreshing.

“Country is cool again,” Reischl said. “Small towns are cool again.”

(Reischl joked that Manning rejected the brand: “The town with the unlocked doors.”)

The brand relies on a lifestyle and the quality of residents, he said.

“Yeah, we’re not on a lake, and we’re not on a mountaintop,” Reischl said.

But the community soon will have a state-of-the-art new hospital to join a collection of other assets including: three banks, a 24-hour recreation center, city owned utility, a TV sales-and-repair store, the only authentic hausbarn in the United States and a vibrant downtown. What’s more, there’s Kinderfest, which at 128 years old, is unmatched in longevity by any other Iowa’s town’s annual festival.

“Stop apologizing,” Reischl said. “We’re basically a humble lot, but we can stop apologizing about being a great town.”

The branding project started as an effort to refresh the community’s website. And that’s a key component of the end product as community leader Nancy Puck worked with her sister, Mary, to develop the website — www.ManningIA.com. It’s packed with information and easily navigable.

“This website is going to give Manning a nice perception,” said Puck, marketing director for Puck Enterprises in Manning.

The community is also using pole posters, car-window displays and billboards to promote its brand. Businesses and organizations are being asked to incorporate the “refreshing” theme into their marketing campaigns to generate an general effect.

“We just need to be a little creative in our thinking, take our blinders off,” said Reischl.