The fascinating rebranding strategies behind new names Rosemary Square, Lake Worth Beach and others


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WEST PALM BEACH — It’s not CityPlace anymore, it’s Rosemary Square.

Lake Worth has become Lake Worth Beach. Brightline found its Virgin-ity.

West Palm Beach’s Downtown Development Authority also is looking for a new presence for the downtown in peoples’ minds. With so much emphasis on bicycles, maybe call it Downtown Copenhagen?

Familiar names are changing all around us. And it’s not just names but identities. There’s a spate of rebranding going on, efforts to make consumers see the familiar in a new light, or to realize that what they think is familiar has changed.

“We started this process many years ago, trying to figure out how we wanted to re-imagine CityPlace,” said Gopal Rajegowda, senior vice president of Rosemary Square owners, The Related Cos.

“It’s a 20-year-old property, designed as a lifestyle center at a time when there wasn’t as much development. A lot has happened, downtown has become more urban, more dense, more of a city,” he said. And as Related thought about that transformation — including a second convention center hotel it’s planning, the 360 Rosemary office tower it has announced and an apartment tower to rise in place of the old Macy’s — the company also thought it would be important to tie in to the city’s history.

What’s the significance of ‘Rosemary’?

Rosemary Avenue, which runs through the development, has been a main north-south corridor for West Palm Beach for decades. Bringing “Rosemary” into the name draws in that sense of city history and the developments place in time, but also as an essential geographic link to the convention center and hotel area to the south, to the Brightline/Virgin train station area and Clematis Street in the center of downtown and to the Historic Northwest neighborhoods Rosemary traverses to the north, Rajegowda said.

“CityPlace was built as its own development and maybe was a little bit inward at the time when it was built, in the late ’90s. Part of the strategy was to erase boundaries to the city and incorporate into the city,” he said. So, that’s how the word “Rosemary” became the focus of the new brand.

“Square,” meanwhile, sounded more urban than “Place” and tied in to the perception the company was trying to foster, of the development being the heart of a district, not an inward-looking place within a city, he said.

Thus, “Rosemary Square” was born, along with a new logo, an “R” for Rosemary, with a square around it.

“The original idea was amazing and the bones are amazing and my peers were way ahead of their time with the idea of creating a lifestyle center in the middle of a downtown,” he said. But the new idea was to reflect culture, energy and a great public space, he said. “The logo feels more energetic, more youthful, more forward-thinking today than the original CityPlace logo. And we wanted to signal the people, we’re doing so much, so much investment, so much change. We wanted people to understand.”

Unlike West Palm, whose marketing-savvy founders put “Beach” in its name 125 years ago, overlooking that the city has no beach, Lake Worth does have a beach and a popular one at that, and voters decided in March to add “Beach” to their city’s name.

But the city can’t just slap the word “Beach” on everything and hope for the best, said Carey O’Donnell, president and creative director of the O’Donnell Agency. You need to reinforce the new brand, the impression people get in their minds when they think of the city, said O’Donnell, who recently won the contract to rebrand the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to do just that.

Lake Worth has a lot to work with, she said. “Of all the cities I can think of, this one has a strong personality. This is a time for them when they’re making a change to really, comprehensively reflect who they are and where they’re going.”

It’s culturally vibrant, “very artsy” and has an architectural heritage, she said. And the beach “is such a part of the DNA of the city,” she said.

Logos, fonts, colors and perceptions

Logos play a big part in rebranding, she added. The name, the graphic design, the colors, the friendliness of the font, all “powerfully affect your perceptions about what’s inside,” she said. The design, she said, “is serving as the foundation for new branding.”

“And they’d better be authentic to the experience,” she said. What’s more, a name and logo can add or subtract value, so it’s important to get it right to create the right impression right off the bat, she said. “Even if you had never visited Toys ‘R’ Us, you knew it wasn’t FAO Schwartz — expensive and unusual.”

West Palm’s Downtown Development Authority put out a request for proposals in March for a company to rebrand its downtown. It has winnowed the eight firms that responded down to four, said Associate Director Teneka Feaman.

There’s so much new energy downtown, with new hotels, businesses and developments that it became time “to look at what we’re doing with it, to give downtown a new identity,” she said.

The rebranding, for which the DDA has set aside $50,000, will include a fresh look at a logo, colors, a brand tagline, print materials and even radio advertising. The winning firm will do research, conduct interviews with stakeholders, review five years of market data, to look at what the agency can do better as far as print ads, outdoor and website messaging, Feaman said, and it will look at how to implement the brand and engage the community, immediately and long-term.

A city company or development doesn’t have to have been around 125 years to decide its time to upgrade the impression it makes on the public.

Sometimes rebranding is done with damage control in mind. Take the 1996 crash of ValuJet Airlines Flight 592 that plummeted into the Florida Everglades killing 110. The next year, passengers were again flying ValuJet, but maybe they weren’t aware. Corporate had changed its name to AirTran Airways, to shed the impression the airline neglected safety to save money.

Brightline, which just opened rapid rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach in a blaze of bright yellow station highlights and signage, and which recently won approvals for service to Orlando, already plans to change its colors after just over a year in operation.

Brightline signed a marketing and licensing agreement with Virgin Group last November and plans to roll out its new brand as Virgin Trains USA, or something along those lines, by the end of this year, said Ben Porritt, senior vice president of Virgin Trains or Brightline — it didn’t matter which, he said, because the company’s in a gray area of transition. Speaking of colors, he said: “The yellow that’s in our stations and trains will change. All that stuff will eventually be switched out.”

The familiar Virgin brand connects the train line with other services offered by the group, such as Virgin Voyages, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Holidays, for example.

“Brightline has many of the unique characteristics of a Virgin company — an incredible guest experience, an incredible environment that’s been thought through since the beginning,” Porritt said. “In many ways, Virgin becomes the icing on the cake.”

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