Brown Deer — A Marquette University marketing class has come up with a list of marketing ideas for the village of Brown Deer, which they say is suffering from a lack of citizen involvement, an identity crisis and a perceived crime problem.

Village officials approached Marquette University marketing professor Felicia M. Miller about the semester-long project, which gave the students real-world marketing experience and provided the village with free marketing help. The students conducted an audit of Brown Deer's image, based on research, interviews and the village's own planning studies.

In summarizing the students' findings to the village board on Monday, June 6, Miller said Brown Deer's biggest weakness is that 'there's no compelling identity.'

'There's an identity crisis,' Miller said. 'Are we part of the North Shore? Are we part of Milwaukee? We're not really sure how we fit in.'

Miller, who lives in Fox Point, said she incorrectly associated Brown Deer with Northridge Mall and areas west of 68th Street on Brown Deer Road. She said other people may have a similar confusion about Brown Deer's borders.

The marketing students also indicated a lack of citizen involvement in Brown Deer, as well as a negative perception of crime.

'Quite frankly, the students felt Brown Deer was at a tipping point,' she said. 'If some of these issues aren't addressed, there could be a mass exodus out of Brown Deer.'

Brown Deer Village President Carl Krueger said he thought the marketing students hit on some relevant topics, and he agreed with Miller that Brown Deer's crime statistics do not live up to the perception that some people have of Brown Deer.

'We're not an unsafe community. The vast majority of our crime is retail theft,' he said. 'I do think we are right on the edge of going this way or that way, which is why we were interested in this study.'

Miller and her marketing students believe Brown Deer should use its racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity as a selling point for the village. One student wrote Brown Deer could be a model community for the rest of the state in terms of its diversity, she said.

Brown Deer's affordable housing stock has led some community members to characterize the village as a starting point for young families, but Miller said a successful marketing campaign and a sense of ownership in the community could encourage more families to stay and grow in Brown Deer.

The students suggested the village could be more active on social media. The village has a website, an email newsletter, a community magazine, a Facebook page and a Twitter page, but she said the village could try other social media outlets like YouTube and Instagram. The students also said images on the village website should feature photos of people instead of buildings and park spaces.

The marketing students also suggested the village hire a communications specialist who could create an internal and external communications plan, lead social media efforts and 'change the conversation' about Brown Deer.

The marketing students also encouraged the village to reduce racial tension and promote its diversity through a 'diversity day' event. They also suggested an increased utilization of the community center; the creation of a slogan; the creation of neighborhood watch teams, and an outdoor area that connects Brown Deer's bigger corporations to the community.

The students also felt that Brown Deer lacks a central downtown business district - something the village has started to create with the Original Village neighborhood. Village leaders have plans for more redevelopment in that area, which they say could happen with the relocation of the public works building.

The partnership between Marquette and Brown Deer came about after Community Development Director Nate Piotrowski reached out to Miller. Piotrowski said he thought the students did a good job of capturing Brown Deer's strengths and weaknesses. He said some ideas, like hiring a communications person, were more valuable than other ideas, such as annexing and redeveloping the Northridge Mall area in Milwaukee.

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