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City of San Jose

Uncovering a new identity in Silicon Valley.

Fortune favors the bold, and bold takes root in San Jose.


San Jose has grown rapidly. It’s now the 10th largest city in the U.S., thanks in part to the economic juggernaut that is Silicon Valley. But it lacked one thing: a true identity that residents could rally around.

San Jose lived in the shadow of San Francisco, and even the well-known and well-named Silicon Valley was overshadowing the city.

But the winds of change and future momentum were already underway. A unified identity would help city pride keep pace with San Jose’s next wave of entrepreneurship, urban growth and culture.



The Office of Economic Development selected Native Digital from a nationwide search of firms. Our first step was to turn the process upside down. Rather than launch a new brand to the rest of the world and let residents find out last, we started at home. We listened before we spoke. We built our core strength before expanding beyond the city’s borders.

With buy-in on the process, we began interviewing local tastemakers, artists, business leaders and entrepreneurs to understand how they see San Jose.

Though our diverse interview set had varied opinions and perspectives of their city, we did find one commonality accepted by all: San Jose was a place you could make a name for yourself. If you wanted to start something, it was a great place to do it. The fact it was the last major U.S. city to fully establish itself and solidify its urban core wasn’t a negative. It was a rare opportunity. The creators, urban pioneers, and entrepreneurs saw San Jose as the perfect place to build their practice, businesses and lives.


The team at Native established the personality and voice that was unique to San Jose, and then created a visual identity system based on input from the city’s environment and people.


Following our original plan, we gathered input from residents along the way. We first unveiled the identity mark itself at a live screen-printing event along with a few mantra statements. We took notice of who purchased each shirt and asked why, generating valuable feedback for future considerations.

T-shirts and stickers continued to be a good test. People don’t rep apparel or stickers for things they don’t care about.

As we saw traction with the new voice and identity we continued our rollout with a poster series, downtown signage and many other grassroots touchpoints.



With evidence that the identity and voice resonated with residents, the Office of Economic Development was pleased to begin using the identity in their own formal communications.

In the world of city politics, having this level of buy-in from the community is not only rare, but it allows action to be taken from a position of confidence. Confidence that our marketing efforts not only help, but truly represent, the city.



Our formal communications through LinkedIn campaigns outperformed industry CTR rates at .6% compared to the standard .15% and the placements in the Silicon Valley Business Journal and environmental signage reached highly targeted audiences.

Our favorite measures of success was the community adoption. One story we couldn’t have planned for was local resident Jake McCluskey celebrating his run of San Jose by inking the identity mark on his leg. The story garnered local media attention and thousands of shares on social media.

“Native’s focus on truly listening to stakeholders to understand our true essence has made all the difference. They have successfully distilled San Jose’s opportunity in a way that resonates with residents and newcomers.”
Kim Walesh
Director of Economic Development & Deputy City Manager
City of San Jose