Group pitches livelier slogan to 'rebrand' city

Modesto is alive.

That could be Modesto's new tag line, says a group of young professionals who want to "rebrand" the city.

The group, CommonWealth Modesto, made a pitch to the City Council on Tuesday night about its plan to give the city an image makeover.

The "Modesto is alive" slogan is only an idea and hasn't been finalized yet, organizers stressed. But they think it captures what they're trying to say about Modesto. They say they know the city as a vibrant community full of pride and promise, said CommonWealth Modesto member Ryan Swehla. They want to build a brand that conveys that message.

Council members gave the idea a warm reception. The council voted 7-0 to approve a list of seven "brand anchors" that CommonWealth Modesto developed after asking more than 3,000 residents what they like best about living in Modesto.

The brand anchors are agriculture and industry, community, location, culture, parks and outdoors, hometown heroes and small-town feel.

CommonWealth Modesto wants to incorporate those concepts into a marketing strategy that the city can use to promote Modesto. But the new brand isn't meant only for city officials and the Chamber of Commerce.

Organizers say they want residents to start using positive images of Modesto when they talk about the city to outsiders. With the new brand in place, residents will know how to describe Modesto's happier attributes instead of "cringing" when they say they're from Modesto, said CommonWealth member Drew Kyler.

Kyler said the plan to revamp Modesto's image can draw inspiration from New York City's successful transformation of Times Square. Once a magnet for seedy characters and crime, Times Square is now a mecca for tourists.

"New York as a community of people decided, you know what, we need to make a change for our community, we don't want this to be the way it is," Kyler said. "They made a concerted effort, they worked hard at it, and 22 years later, this is what it looks like."

Kyler showed the council a photo of the family-friendly Times Square of today.

Modesto needs a new brand because the city suffers from an "unmanaged brand," Swehla told the council. "It's not that we have a brand, it's that we don't have one and there's a vacuum that's filled with negative news about Modesto."

He noted that CommonWealth is aware of the challenges facing Modesto, including foreclosures, poverty, gangs and poorly educated residents. But those problems aren't all there is to Modesto, Swehla said.

"We experience Modesto every day and our experience doesn't include all those negative statistics," Swehla said.

Councilman Brad Hawn agreed, saying Modesto residents suffer from low self-esteem.

"(Modesto) is a great place, but we like to focus on the negative instead of the positive," Hawn said. "This is way bigger than a brand. It's about our own people."

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at or 578-2378. Follow her at

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