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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

There is a whole lot of rebranding going on, even locally.  Three examples that come to mind: Team Blonde is now TB; West Suburban PADS changed its name to Housing Forward; and what used to be called Summerfest will now be marketed as MUSICFEST. 

Team Blonde changed to TB in order to appeal to a younger customer base, but PADS and Summer Fest rebranded partly to reflect a change in identity.  That is, although PADS has always been associated with the overnight shelter, the organization by that name only spent 10% of its budget on getting folks into the shelter and 90% on getting them out of the shelter and into independent subsidized housing.

Whole communities can rebrand, and I wonder if it's time for Forest Park to do so.  "Big city access, small town charm" is OK.  It's not wrong, but it's no longer sufficient.  For the same reasons that PADS rebranded to Housing Forward, it might be time to consider a brand that includes Forest Park as a shopping/dining destination.

"Madison St. remains a revelation in waiting for many customers," declared Bridget Lane, at both the morning and afternoon sessions of a workshop called Fifty Ways to Increase Your Profits sponsored by the Village of Forest Park.  "We want customers to think of Madison St. in the same breath as Andersonville's Clark St."

Our present brand addresses people thinking about moving here but it doesn't speak to folks who might spend money here if they knew that "Madison St. is a revelation in waiting for many customers."  How about: FOREST PARK—THE HIPPEST, COOLEST SHOPPING/DINING DESTINATION IN ALL OF METRO CHICAGO?  OK, so I should keep my day job, but you get the idea.

For Forest Park, rebranding would be a way of catching the wave of the Madison St. Miracle and surfing it even further.  Some, communities, however, choose to rebrand in order to recover from a disaster.  From what I can tell, that's what Baltimore is going to have to do.

I'm reading a book by Judith Rodin called The Resilience Dividend.  It has the subtitle Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong.  "After a disruption," she writes, "sometimes a community redefines itself."

She held up the example of Boston after the Boston Marathon bombings.  The narrative or the story being told in the media was focused on the tragedy.  What leaders in Bean Town did was to rewrite the narrative to focus on how the residents were working together and helping each other.  "Boston's story," she wrote, "was not going to be about terror—it was going to be about togetherness."

What New Orleans did in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina is another example of using a disaster as an opportunity to rebrand, to go beyond the anything goes, Mardi Gras reputation.  Rodin wrote, "The disruption of Katrina brought with it an opportunity to revitalize the city's identity and transform its narrative.  Yes, it is still a city that loves to party, but the city. . .is also reshaping its identity and starting to adjust the narrative: of a city that has learned from its disruptions, is building business, and is beginning to reap the resilience dividend as a burgeoning center of cultural excitement and business innovation."

Finally, rebranding is a skill we all need to learn and to teach our children.  There used to be a coffee mug for sale at Counter Coffee on which was written, "Falling down is part of life.  Getting back up again is living." 

Part of getting up may include rebranding, i.e. redefining who I am.  I'll give you an example.  When I became divorced in 1987, I found myself being a single parent.  Up until that "disruption," as Rodin would call it, I branded myself as a pastor.  That was my identity.  So I experienced great discomfort when the demands of raising children created great internal tension with my desire to be a good pastor.  Something had to give.  What that crisis literally forced me to do was to rebrand myself primarily as a parent, such that after a year or so, one of the parishioners give me a Mothers' Day card!  That rebranding, that change my sense of identity was one of the best things that every happened to me.

The Chinese character for "crisis," after all, is also the one for "opportunity."



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