How Branding Unified a City

By: Ben Okun

On April 15th 2013, tragedy struck Boston at the city’s most celebrated event. The Boston Marathon bombings effected countless lives and shook a nation, which has seen a rise in terrorism acts in recent years. In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, The One Fund was created to assist the victims and families affected, and has since raised over $60 million. Moreover, Boston saw the birth of the phrase, “Boston Strong,” which served as a rallying cry, unifying a proud city during hard times.

As “Boston Strong” quickly gained momentum, it became more than just a phrase; it became Boston’s brand. Within days of the tragedy, “Boston Strong” appeared on shirts, hats, ribbons and bracelets. It was put up on billboards across the city of Boston and adorned many of Boston’s public transportation. The TD Garden hosted a benefit concert later that month featuring Aerosmith, Boston and Jimmy Buffet, and the concert was properly labeled, “Boston Strong.” During their amazing playoff run that culminated in a Stanley Cup victory, the Boston Bruins put “Boston Strong” on a lot of their merchandise, bringing the entire city of Boston together.  Just last week, the Boston Red Sox became World Champions, winning one of the most thrilling World Series’ of all time. Like the Bruins, the Red Sox used “Boston Strong” as a rallying cry that gained the support of the entire city and captured the hearts of people everywhere. 

How is it that two words, inspired by a horrible tragedy, could stick for so long and change the outlook of an entire city? There is no definitive answer, but it goes to show how powerful a brand can be when utilized effectively. The “Boston Strong” brand is simple, straightforward, flexible and emotional. “Boston Strong” also ties into the resiliency and solidarity that truly define the city of Boston. You are able to display the brand on multiple platforms and can also use it as a hashtag and talking point to gain awareness on social media. As soon as you see the words “Boston Strong,” you know exactly what it means and what it refers to. “Boston Strong” is everything a successful brand should be and it shows no signs of slowing down.

“Boston Strong” also shows that branding and advertising don’t always have to have a goal of generating revenue. While “Boston Strong” helped produce more than $60 million in proceeds towards the victims of the bombing, it has done arguably even more for the psyche of the city of Boston. It has unified the Bostonians under a common banner and has restored a sense of pride. “Boston Strong” presented emotional appeal to a city that was in desperate need of latching onto something meaningful.

With two different championships, tens of millions of dollars raised and an emotional transformation since that fateful day, there is no question that Boston is  “strong.” While the victims and those affected will never be forgotten, Boston should be proud of how they have responded and joined together under such dire circumstances.

As always, I welcome any comments and if you like what you read, be social and share.

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