The city of Sunset Valley—with a small population and a large retail center located within the city of Austin—is in the process of transitioning from its current marketing firm to develop a more robust brand and image for the city.
In October, Sunset Valley City Council posted a request for proposals for city marketing services, but on Dec. 17 voted to close the process without selecting a bid. City staff will present a new RFP to City Council in January.
Sunset Valley has seen its sales tax revenue grow by about 3% over the past five years, a rate lower than most of its neighboring cities. In November, Mayor Rose Cardona told Community Impact Newspaper that she was ready for a change in marketing and branding for the city.
“I want Sunset Valley to be more of a destination, where people are not saying that they’re going to one store, but ‘I’m going to Sunset Valley,’” she said. “I can go have a nice lunch; I can sit at a nice patio; I can go buy my stuff here; and the kids can do some things.”
Sunset Valley has contracted marketing services with Austin-based White Hat Agency since 2016. According to city documents, White Hat has handled promotion of the city’s holiday, spring and back-to-school campaigns; annually updated the city’s business map; and advertised events and promotions online, through direct mail and radio.
However, the city’s community and economic development committee, or CED, has been working in recent years to develop a branding strategy for the city, with the goal of making Sunset Valley a local destination for shopping, entertainment and recreation. The committee hopes a new marketing team can help pull the city’s ideas together.
“[CED] had been working very diligently in branding Sunset Valley,” CED Chair Penny Cedel said in November. “We realized that we in Sunset Valley do things well, but we do it in a stealth mode. To grow any further we had to come out of that shell.”
Cardona said that once Council Member Phil Ellett became the liaison for the committee in 2018, CED work began taking the forefront more often. She said it showed that CED and the city were ready to take the next steps in marketing.
“For me, I’m ready for a change because I haven’t seen much change in our shopping district for the last few years in terms of marketing and branding,” Cardona said. “There are a handful of things that showed me that we need somebody new [as a firm].”
Branding around assets
Ellett said that he is hoping a firm will create a strategy that uses all modern marketing tools available.
“What I’m looking for is [a marketing firm] that creates something that touches all tools available—digital, social media, print for some things—is creative and excited to work with us,” he said. “Not abandon what we have [now], but to take it to the next level.”
However, Ellett said a marketing campaign “is the beginning” of creating an image that works for the city and its retailers, and promotes city assets.
“We have a great selection of stores; we just need to know how to bring it all together in a way that identifies Sunset Valley,” Ellett said.
According to Cardona, some of those assets include city green spaces, the farmers market and the city’s relationship with the Violet Crown Trail—which could link users from Austin to Sunset Valley’s retail center.
She said she hopes a marketing firm will help develop ideas to promote the trail, which could also lead to future development that fits in with an overall image of the city.
The future of Sunset Valley
Cardona said that while the city has great tenants, the shopping centers as a whole leave much to be desired. Future development, tenants and renovations could help modernize the centers.
City Administrator Sylvia Carrillo said that the city’s current shopping centers are based on an older shopping model. Newer centers include parking garages instead of “seas of parking,” encourage walkability, and include different landscaping and lighting, she said.
“Those are all things we’re not necessarily talking about yet,” she said. “But, [marketing] touches everything, even the land-development code, so there are lots of moving parts to this.”
Another opportunity to attract visitors is the Uplands Tract along West Hwy. 290, which could be developed in the future based on marketing strategies.