By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
"Killeen: Where freedom grows."
That's the new message the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce is trying to spread throughout the city and use to attract visitors, businesses and new residents.
"It's fresh, it's radical, I like it," Killeen City Councilman Otis Evans said.
Last week, Chamber CEO/President John Crutchfield and members of a creative design team unveiled the new logo and tagline for the city's branding campaign.
Crutchfield told the council during its workshop Tuesday that a brand for a community establishes its reputation.
"It is reputation that is the key word," Crutchfield said.
He said it's more than a slogan and a logo.
"It's a branding strategy," Crutchfield said.
He said by creating its own brand, Killeen can shake negative connotations.
"We are branded, whether we like it or not," Crutchfield said. "If we are not managing our brand, someone else will. That's where 'scruffy little military town' came from."
A Jan. 12, 2004, Washington Post article by Lee Hockstader described Killeen as "a scruffy town of tattoo parlors and auto body shops, Chinese restaurants and pawn shops." The Post staff writer was in town as part of the media coverage when Fort Hood sent its first units to Iraq.
Since then, the council and other community members have been trying to shake that image – or brand.
"You develop a brand for who you are, but also who you want to be and who you want to grow into and how you want the rest of the world to see you," Connie Kuehl, who was on the creative team, said in May. "What little short thing is going to say, 'This is Killeen?'"
The tagline is coupled with a modified logo. The current blue K with a red line leading to a star at the top has been replaced by a green stem topped with a yellow rose.
The yellow rose, while synonymous with Texas, is supposed to represent the military. The yellow is to be a reminder of yellow ribbons.
Also, the yellow rose was planted in gardens during World War II to honor victims of war, according to a brochure produced by the creative team. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed a resolution making the rose the national flower.
Part of the branding strategy would include changing the official city flower from the poppy, which creative team members said does not grow well in Central Texas.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham said he was on the Keep Killeen Beautiful Committee when it proposed the poppy as the official city flower to symbolize the sacrifices of soldiers.
"I don't know what to think yet," Latham said of the new logo following the workshop Tuesday.
He said he was "married" to the current logo and tagline, which is, "The city without limits."
"It makes sense when you think about it," Latham said about the yellow rose.
Latham, a native Killeenite, said he is resistant to the change.
Councilman Billy Workman also said the new logo and tagline didn't immediately impress him.
"I've got to let it grow on me," Workman said.
Council members Kenny Wells and Juan Rivera were also resistant to the change.
"I would have liked to be involved early on," Wells said.
Rivera echoed Wells' comment.
"The City Council didn't have a say," Rivera said.
A committee through the Chamber of Commerce included a city representative in Director of Public Information Hilary Shine, who said she liked the new tagline and logo.
In September 2006, North Star Destinations Strategies researchers began conducting one-on-one interviews with community leaders, resident focus groups and "man-on-the-street" interviews to gather information to begin the creative process to develop a new brand for the city.
The eight-month project was one of five priorities that came out of a 2004 retreat by the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, Killeen Economic Development Corp., Killeen Industrial Foundation and the city of Killeen.
North Star, which was paid $76,000 for its work, also conducted surveys in surrounding communities of people's perceptions of Killeen.
Tuesday's workshop was the first time the Killeen City Council saw the fruits of those labors.
Some council members liked the brand.
"The reason I like this is because it covers so much," Mayor Timothy Hancock said.
Councilman Larry Cole also said he likes it.
"I think it's great," Cole said. "I think it was very well put. I think they hit the nail on the head."
Councilwoman Claudia Brown said she will miss the K with the star, but welcomes the change.
"It's going to promote the economic growth of Killeen," Brown said.
Lisa Mac, of GOGO Creative in Austin, said that is the idea. Mac, who helped design the new logo, said the symbolism of it is important.
"It's resilient, it's ever blooming," Mac said. "It has strong roots in our history."
The new brand will gradually become prevalent in the community starting with a poster campaign with phrases including, "Come see what's growing in Killeen," "Plant a seed" and "Dig in and let your pride grow."
The Chamber of Commerce will also push for the brand to be integrated into all aspects of the community, including the school district and Fort Hood.
Killeen Independent School District Superintendent Jim Hawkins said he's not sure yet exactly how the new brand will be used in local schools, but said he likes it.
"I think it's very, very clever," Hawkins said.
He also said he likes how it will take the school district's image away from a "mechanical, industrial" model.
"For the school district, we like it, this is a living icon," Hawkins said.
He added that he was impressed that the brand was able to be patriotic with the yellow rose coming out of an Army Combat Uniform digital camouflage ground on the poster campaign.
"I thought it had to be red, white and blue (to be patriotic)," Hawkins said.
Crutchfield said the school district, city and other entities don't need to throw out all their stationery and business cards tomorrow. Rather, he suggested they slowly integrate the new logo and tagline over time.
"'The city without limits' will go away," Crutchfield said.
There will be a blitz of publicity for the new logo on April 22 for Arbor Day when more than 300 of the yellow Freedom Roses will be planted throughout the city, and a new Web site will launch at www.killeentexas.gov.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550