As the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce gets its Lake Country Cares campaign underway to let the public know area businesses are open, the city of Brainerd will work alongside with its own marketing campaign.
Brainerd City Council members approved up to $25,000 in funding during their meeting Monday, May 18, to use for a citywide marketing campaign to get the word out of businesses safely opening and ready to welcome customers.
While the chamber’s Lake Country Cares campaign encompasses businesses throughout the region in cities like Brainerd, Baxter, Pequot Lakes, Nisswa, Crosslake and Cuyuna, Brainerd’s campaign, spearheaded by the Economic Development Authority, will put the focus on businesses within the city in an effort to draw in consumers and help boost the local economy.
“There’s a lot of comments that we’ve gotten from multiple business owners of people who are asking, are they open? The general public doesn’t know who’s open and who’s not,” Community Development Director David Chanski told the personnel and finance committee prior to the council meeting Monday. “So the idea of this would be a marketing campaign that’s broad in that we’re not necessarily pointing out specific businesses, but it’s a campaign that says, ‘We here in the city of Brainerd, we are open for business, and you can come here for all your essential needs, and it’s safe to shop here.’”
Marketing intern Jessie Ernster presented the committee with a draft proposal, which includes plans for advertising via social media, radio, video, flyers, transit posters, newspaper and magazine.
“This is planned to be a comprehensive marketing plan that just really encourages locals that Brainerd is open and to shop locally,” Ernster said. “And so we chose several channels of marketing that hit many different age demographics in Brainerd, and we wanted to reach them at their point in decision-making.”
Ernster provided the following breakdown of estimated costs:
Social media — arbitrary estimate of $5,000 for Facebook and Instagram ads, a profile sticker and a complete directory of stores within Brainerd.
Radio — $3,294 for an ad running twice daily on WJJY. The cost to advertise on all sister stations is about $8,000.
Video — arbitrary estimate of $5,000 for YouTube video ads.
Printing — arbitrary estimate of $5,000 for a half-page flyer to be placed in all Brainerd business doorways alongside Lake Country Cares content.
Brainerd Dispatch — arbitrary estimate of $5,000, with the potential for a matching grant, for a back page ad and a small recurring ad every week for two months.
Lake Country Journal magazine — $2,300 for a one-time full-page spread, with the design included.
Marketing components Ernster said she did not have quotes for are billboards around Brainerd and ads on city buses.
The plan also proposes a directory listing how businesses are open — whether it be curbside, delivery or in-store.
“I just think this is another great opportunity to showcase what Brainerd is about and to show the support that the council and the city is giving them,” council member Kevin Stunek said after the presentation.
Social media mockups included in the presentation say “Come on in” in large letters, with the line, “Brainerd is safely back open for business. Come on in and see what essentials Brainerd has in store.” They include a picture of an “open” sign with a small circle that could feature different pictures, like logos or photos of different businesses. The mockups featured photos of the Brainerd water tower and the “You Betcha” mural downtown.
“This is something that I know has been discussed off and on by the council for as long as I’ve been on the council,” committee chair Dave Pritschet said. “So it’ll be nice to see how this works out, and I think some of this stuff looks great.”
During the regular council meeting Monday, Mayor Dave Badeaux questioned whether now is the right time for an advertising campaign, as the chamber and other area organizations are doing their own. As someone with an advertising background, Badeaux said he was worried this marketing campaign would be competing with others right now and suggested the council wait to pull the trigger until they gather more information about which businesses might be requiring customers to wear masks and what exactly the right message might be.
“As President Johnson said, this could be a long haul,” Badeaux said, referring to Council President Gabe Johnson’s earlier hesitancy about approving funds for a small business grant program this early on in what could be a more severe economic recession.
“We could be in this for a very long time,” Badeaux went on. “And if we’re just quickly shooing $25,000 out the door just to get an ad campaign up right now when other people are doing that, maybe we should just take our time and make sure that we’re crafting a message that actually says what we want.”
Chanski said he believes the city can do a good job with the marketing campaign and noted the council was not asked to transfer funds to the EDA but rather allocate some of their Minnesota Investment Fund dollars for future use on the campaign. Ads don’t need to be out the window right away, Chanski added, and council members will be able to give their input on what the campaign materials look like.
After having allocated $90,000 to a small business relief grant program, council member Wayne Erickson said he sees this campaign as something that needs to be done soon to go along with those grants, which will likely allow some businesses to buy masks, Plexiglas shields and other equipment needed to open safely.
“This is a campaign to get advertising out and bring the customers back into the Brainerd city area,” Erickson said. “... (Businesses) are going to need our help to draw the customers back in.”
The council unanimously approved up to $25,000 for the campaign. Badeaux, as mayor, does not vote except in the case of a tie. The money will come from the city’s Minnesota Investment Fund.
The council also signed a resolution Monday to support the Lake Country Cares campaign.