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Research efforts for rebranding nearly complete

Black Friday shoppers already busy looking for bargaas sun rises Chicago Premium outlet mall Aurorlast year. |  Sun-Times Medifile

Black Friday shoppers already busy looking for bargain as the sun rises at the Chicago Premium outlet mall in Aurora last year. | Sun-Times Media file photo

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a few questions

Sample questions on the Aurora Community Survey:

If Aurora were a car, what kind of car would it be?

Do you consider Aurora’s diversity to be an advantage?

If you had to change one thing about Aurora that would improve its future, what would it be?

What is missing from the downtown Aurora experience?

Updated: March 6, 2014 6:36AM

AURORA — Now that they’ve heard from business leaders and Aurora officials, the city’s rebranding firm wants input from ordinary residents.

An online and in-print community survey which aims to tackle existing perceptions about the city will be key to deciding how the city is promoted in the future, City Director of Communications Clayton Muhammad said.

The Survey Monkey-powered survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, is available until Feb. 15 online. The community survey, available in English and Spanish, can also be taken via paper copy at City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place, and the Aurora Community Service Center, 3770 McCoy Drive, in Aurora.

Besides basic demographic questions, the survey asks a slew of limited response and open-ended response questions, which range from practical to quirky.

About 3,000 people have taken the survey so far, Muhammad said, and the city hopes to get 5,000 responses by the middle of the month.

In addition to advertising the survey in the city’s newsletter, the city is sending postcards via mail to every Aurora household and pushing the survey via social media.

“What we’re doing here is not only just getting the pulse of Aurora in the survey, but also seeing where we stand from a marketing standpoint and how we need to [proceed] in the future,” Muhammad said.

The survey follows a November insight survey that was previously distributed to a targeted group of 500 community stakeholders — elected leaders, business owners, area school boards, Chamber of Commerce and business roundtable groups, and area marketing professionals.

The city is 80 percent complete with the research phase of the city’s rebranding process, Muhammad said, and about three months into the nine-month project.

“This first three months have been extremely reflective, not only where Aurora is in terms of where we want to go as a city, but where Aurora is in terms of our surrounding communities,” he said.

The goal of the rebranding campaign is to spur economic development and increase business investment in Aurora, Muhammad said.

“Aurora has fundamentally changed over the last decade. We have to have a brand footprint that catches up with that,” he said.

Mayor Tom Weisner said that Aurora has left the era of identifying as a “post-industrial blue collar” city and is now recognized as a municipal leader in sustainability and technology.

“You have to take a fresh look at the world itself and where we fit into that world,” Weisner said. “The reduction in crime [in Aurora] certainly changes the game for us and it’s important that it changes the game for those who visit us or look at us as a potential location to open a business.”

Research audit

The rebranding research phase began in October, when North Star Destination Strategies, the city’s rebranding firm, completed a research audit of the city — analyzing brochures, studies, media and other materials — “anything that’s been done about Aurora in the last decade,” Muhammad said.

Following the research audit was a communications audit — a study of local news sources and Aurora’s ability to reach the Chicago news market, Muhammad said, and consumer record collection.

In late October, a team of four from North Star Destination Strategies spent four days in Aurora, interviewing about 90 people in town, including elected officials, business owners, non-profit leaders, clergy and students. The goal of the visit was to get “the pulse of Aurora,” Muhammad said.

North Star also met with neighboring community leaders, including Naperville Mayor George Pradel and North Aurora Village President Dale Berman.

Mayor Tom Weisner said the team wanted to hear “all of the pluses and negatives, in terms of the cold reality of what is out there.”

“I thought they were very sincere about that. They weren’t trying to see Aurora for [only] its good points, [they wanted to see the city] with its warts and all,” Weisner said.

The visit also included “extensive” all-day tours of Aurora’s Far East, Near East and West Sides, Muhammad said.

“We [went through the city] from a historical standpoint, but more importantly, from an economic development standpoint,” he said. The North Star team toured economic corridors, the Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora, business parks, the Aurora University campus, area schools and Station Boulevard, among other areas.

North Star Vice President Lori Odom, who is managing the Aurora project, said the team was impressed by the “participation and openness” from the community during their visit.

“We are pleased with the progress of the Aurora project and have enjoyed working with the city and those involved thus far,” she said.

At the end of this process, North Star Destination Strategies will be responsible for delivering a brand positioning statement, concept, logo and style guide to the city. The firm will also develop a recommended marketing strategy to Aurora officials. Muhammad said he expects North Star to present to the city in late April or early May.

Weisner said North Star’s team has delivered what they promised on time and are highly professional.

“I think they’re dynamite. We chose the right company,” he said.

After North Star delivers its research and recommendations, Aurora will then work toward a brand rollout, which may see the city hiring local firms to build a new website and develop other media, Muhammad said.

In September 2013, aldermen unanimously approved the city’s hiring of Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies Inc., a municipal branding firm, for $138,000. The firm has also completed branding campaigns for downtown New Orleans, La., Glendale, Calif. and Providence, R.I.

Aurora’s community survey is available at on the front page of the city’s website at

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