Washington, D.C., October 1, 2012 – The NoMa: CONNECTED branding campaign won a prestigious award from the International Downtown Association last week at the organization’s annual conference. Starting in February 2011, the NoMa Business Improvement District embarked on a year of branding strategy and over the course of 18 months, successfully defined an authentic identity for NoMa, a new neighborhood in Washington, D.C. that has seen a recent transformation from blighted area to sleek downtown neighborhood.
Just 10 years ago, the area now called NoMa (north of Massachusetts Avenue) in Washington, D.C., was an industrial wasteland. A handful of old warehouses stood amidst empty lots and surface parking lots, as the area had fallen into neglect with the decline of the rails.
Private developers and the city saw the spot as ripe for development, and raised $120 million, along with the federal government, to build the Washington Metro system’s first infill rail station. The NoMa Business Improvement District was formed in 2007, but the emerging neighborhood lacked definition or a real brand. The small organization settled on a basic logo and letterhead and quickly got to work building the neighborhood.
No one had ever heard of NoMa, although the city had renamed the industrial area in the late ‘90s. NoMa offered high-density zoning opportunities, a location just four blocks from the U.S. Capitol, and a southern anchor in Union Station, which boasts 32 million visitors a year and 120 shops and restaurants. The boom began: with a total of 14 million SF of office, retail, hotel and residential space now, more than 7 million has occurred since 2005.
For years, NoMa has remained the fastest growing neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and leasing has kept pace with development. New hotels and luxury apartments followed, with more than 3,500 apartments under construction or recently delivered. Thousands of residents are flocking to the neighborhood, which boasts two Red Line Metro stations, access to downtown in just a few minutes and a growing assortment of restaurants.
“As NoMa has matured and we have a much clearer sense of what it is and where it is going, the NoMa BID recognized the need for a cohesive brand, not just a logo. The neighborhood’s personality had begun to surface organically, and we needed our marketing strategy, message and look to reflect the dynamic neighborhood that had emerged,” said Rachel Davis, NoMa BID Director of Marketing and Events.
Starting in 2010, the BID hired branding consulting firm The Roan Group and design firm DOXA, and conducted nearly nine months of branding analysis, strategy and design work. Analysis resulted in critical research on the area’s competing neighborhoods, as well as key messaging, positioning, and a new tagline. The team conducted 35 one-on-one interviews with local stakeholders, and also spent long sessions with our board defining our collective vision for the neighborhood.
The strategy and creative design capture the energy and optimism that has come to signify NoMa. The new logo is sophisticated and contemporary and evokes a skyline rising from the ground. Our tagline, CONNECTED, and messaging focuses on the ways NoMa connects you like no other place in DC:
- NoMa is connected to the seat of power – just four blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
- NoMa connects you to the city and the region with 14 modes of transportation, including Union Station, two Red Line metro stops, eight Capital Bikeshare stations and the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch biking/walking trail.
- Seventeen new retailers, including DC’s largest Harris Teeter, connect you to convenience and dining.
- With brand-new, green buildings, NoMa connects you to value, a lower price per square foot than other downtown neighborhoods.
- Panoramic vistas, rooftop pools, and stylish, new residences connect you to luxury.
- Over 50 free events organized by the NoMa BID create opportunities to connect with neighbors.
With NoMa-specific photography by Sam Kittner, the brand includes modern, fresh hues and a dynamic palette. Rather than short-term advertising efforts outside the neighborhood, the launch plan focused on more permanent place branding and beautification initiatives in NoMa to reinforce the identity of the neighborhood.
Like a finely tuned dance, the BID launched the new look and strategy at a swanky Annual Meeting April 28, 2011, at NoMa’s newest hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn (which had opened just a week before). As the event started:
- Alerts were sent to press and key stakeholders;
- A completely redesigned Web site launched, along with a new look for Facebook and Twitter pages;
- All-new marketing collateral and events promotions hit the streets;
- NoMa staff hospitality ambassadors and Clean Team featured new uniforms;
- They handed out creative new branded giveaways, including mugs, reusable bags, t-shirts, hats and umbrellas.
- A 12-month advertising campaign in the Washington Business Journal started the next day.
In the days following the annual meeting, the neighborhood came alive with place branding efforts and the BID’s signature event programming, including hundreds of linear feet of colorful banners, two months of 25 pieces of NoMa-branded collateral at the NoMa metro station, and all NoMa events featured new branded giveaways, signage and collateral, including NoMa Summer Screen (movies), Rhythm in NoMa (concerts), ZestFest (fall festival), and the neighborhood’s first Farmers Market.
After the initial launch, the staff continued with an aggressive media and public relations strategy to further raise awareness of the NoMa neighborhood with positive press. Local neighborhood stakeholders and blogs touted the new brand efforts. In December 2011, the local Washington City Paper bestowed NoMa with a ‘Plexy’ Award for ‘Best Neighborhood Branding Campaign. At a time when numerous DC neighborhoods were re-branding, NoMa’s campaign was seen as fresh, authentic and true to the neighborhood, and recognized by several bloggers and real estate reporters. Wrote the City Paper reporter: “Out of all those [other branding campaigns], only NoMa’s tagline – ‘Connected’ – really speaks to the niche the neighborhood is trying to fill. NoMa sits on a train station, a Metro line, and a major bike trail, all of which have brought enough people through it to create an actual place. Transit is a hell of a selling point.”
NoMa BID continues to focus on the connections here in the neighborhood. In spring 2012, NoMa achieved a major success when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency (WMATA) recognized the NoMa name as the new moniker for this neighborhood – and agreed to incorporate the name and identity of the neighborhood into the transit station; the station, formerly called New York Ave/Florida Ave/Gallaudet U, is now called the more concise NoMa/Gallaudet U as of June 18, 2012. (No other neighborhood stations were renamed, despite attempts by several other BIDs.) This high-profile change literally puts the NoMa neighborhood on the map and has began a new phase of the branding effort to further raise awareness of NoMa to the greater Washington, D.C., region and beyond.
This is the second award from IDA for NoMa BID: The organization’s marketing and events team also won a Merit Award in 2011 for Events & Programming.
NoMa is a vibrant, growing neighborhood north of Union Station and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. In the last seven years, private developers have invested more than $5 billion in the 35-block areas in the NoMa BID boundary, and have plans to develop more than 20 million square feet of office, residential, hotel, and retail space. NoMa is now home to 45,000 daytime workers, with 4.5 million SF leased in the last 4.5 years. More than 3,900 apartments have been recently completed or are under construction. NoMa has 13 modes of transportation, including two Red Line Metro stops, and the best biking facilities in D.C., with the only East Coast Bikestation, the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail, and access to nine Capital Bikeshare stations. NoMa is the most connected neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The NoMa BID organizes more than 50 free community events each year to connect friends and neighbors. For more information about NoMa, visit nomabid.wpengine.com and sign up for our bimonthly newsletter. Follow us on Twitter @NoMaBID and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nomabid.
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