Los Alamos County ... Live Exponentially

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By Arin McKenna


Los Alamos County’s new $50,000 “strapline” or slogan is Los Alamos County…Live Exponentially. The county council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve that and other recommendations from the branding study conducted by North Star Destination Strategies.

“We have a saying at North Star, that your brand is what they say about you when you are not around. It’s your reputation,” said Adam Winstead, North Star’s community brand supervisor. 

“Branding is the act of managing and controlling that reputation.”

Winstead added that branding is also about aspiration, where the county would like to be 15 to 20 years from now. 

According to Winstead, “live exponentially” should spark an emotional response that incentivizes people to act.

“Branding is about making an emotional connection with your target audience and those consumers that you’re hoping to attract to come live here, to come visit the community or to relocate or open their business here in the area.”

North Star’s rational for why the word “exponentially” is ideal for Los Alamos includes:

• “Exponentially” gives the feeling that life in the County is elevated and raised, that life is great, and the county is for those that want the most out of life.

• “Exponentially” is an element found in science, mathematics, and engineering. This word is “onstrategy” and will resonate with key target audiences.

• Residents and businesspeople in Los Alamos County aren’t thrill seekers; however, they do push the status quo. They never stop questioning the boundaries of science, the boundaries of their personal life, and the boundaries of health, activity, leisure, and time with family. It’s an innate desire to learn and to grow, and this strapline encompasses this sentiment.

According to the report, “the possibilities are endless” for pairing “exponentially” with other words “to connect with all types of audiences.” Winstead gave some examples.

• For a workforce development message: Los Alamos County…“Work Exponentially.”

• For students in the local schools or for scientists at LANL: Los Alamos County… “Think Exponentially.”

• For outdoor fun: Los Alamos County… “Play Exponentially.”

• For trail runners: Los Alamos County… “Run Exponentially.”

• For a local brewery: Los Alamos County… “Brew Exponentially.”

• For local bands and music functions: Los Alamos County… “Jam Exponentially.

• For local painters and artists: Los Alamos County… “Create Exponentially” or “Imagine


The report also suggests attaching the tagline to events, such as the Los Alamos ScienceFest (formerly the “Next Big Idea Festival”), altering its slogan to read “Unleash Your Creative Genius—Exponentially!”

Councilor Frances Berting was the only one to question the slogan. 

“The exponential thing seems somewhat abstract,” Berting said, and asked if this had been put in front of Los Alamos residents and those surveyed in surrounding communities to see what their perception of the word was. Winstead admitted “exponentially” had not been vetted in that way.

The strapline and a “written concept” were developed by North Star and a nine-person “creative committee.” consisting of residents Kendra Henning, broker/owner of RE/MAX, Las Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Scott Randall and Lisa Rosendorf, head of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Communications and Government Affairs Division and county staff members Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan, Kelly Stewart, Greg Fisher, Anne Laurent, Julie Habiger and County Administrator Harry Burgess. 

“There has been a significant amount of review and effort before bringing this before you this evening, and also a significant amount of local input into this plan beyond the surveys and information gathering” Burgess said. 

The tagline and written concept are both based on a “Brand Platform Statement” developed by North Star. The goal of the brand platform is to get every organization that markets and promotes Los Alamos to “speak from one common voice.”

“Branding is the strategic orchestration of all that you do, mostly behind the scenes, to affect what they (the residents, businesses and consumers) say about your community,” Winstead said.

The brand platform statement incorporates four elements: the target audience the county wishes to reach, a “frame-of-reference”, the point-of-difference, or what is unique about the county and the “benefit” or reward people will get by coming here. The brand platform reads:

“For those who never stop questioning what‘s possible (target audience), Los Alamos County, in the elevated outdoors of northern New Mexico and home to the Los Alamos National Lab (frame-of-reference), is where some of the world‘s best brains power the breakthroughs that shape our world (point-of-difference) so you are challenged to think bigger and live brighter (benefit).

North Star based its branding suggestions on research conducted within the county and in Santa Fe and the Albuquerque area to “uncover what’s most relevant and distinct about Los Alamos County.”

“We have to insure that the messages we’re putting out into the marketplace about Los Alamos County are authentic to the area and are truthful about Los Alamos County,” Winstead said, adding that people who are moved to visit or relocate to Los Alamos should experience whatever the branding suggests the experience will be. 

Councilor David Izraelevitz expressed disappointment that North Star study of “peer communities” focused exclusively on local communities. 

 “I really do feel that our competition is national, especially for staffing our largest employer. 

“We really do recruit across the country. Our competition is really not Santa Fe or Albuquerque or New Mexico, it’s really Oak Ridge or the Bay Area, the Boston area and Washington, D.C.,” Izraelevitz said.

Winstead suggested implementing the brand platform “over the long haul,” prioritizing how the brand would be incorporated instead of trying to change every element of the county’s marketing at once. 

“It is something that takes engagement over a long period of time to do really well,” Winstead said. “We don’t like to recommend a huge “ta-da” moment about your brand. We recommend a trickling out into the community.”

“The other pitfall that we’ve seen is not appointing someone to manage the brand,” Winstead said. “Brand management by committee is extremely difficult, and often the brand will fall through the cracks. So we always recommend appointing somebody as holder and keeper of that brand.”

Staff will now develop a plan for implementing the branding campaign, including developing a new logo for the county. The economic development budget includes $10,000 for developing the plan and $150,000 for implementation, including the cost of the logo. 

“I think this is probably a very good first step. I don’t think we tell our story very well,” Chair Geoff Rodgers said, recounting how someone had asked him if Los Alamos was near Chama. “If Chama can tell their story better than we can, we can probably do a little bit better job than we have been.”

To read the entire study, look for council’s May 6 agenda at losalamos.legistar.com.