The affluent Chicago suburb of Lake Forest seemingly has it all: sprawling estates, major corporate employers, country clubs, beaches on Lake Michigan, and two symphony orchestras. A few years ago, however, with home sales noticeably lagging, local real estate agents and town leaders agreed that Lake Forest had one glaring deficit—young home buyers.

The problem, the Lake Foresters decided, wasn't the city itself. Rather, it was the millennial generation's perception of it. Lake Forest was in need of some serious rebranding.

"The reputation [of Lake Forest] was, that's where affluent people live in big houses with big yards," says Prue Beidler, an alderman (an elected official) on the City Council. "We were thought of as stuffy, mired in the past."

Lake Forest is among a growing number of cities and towns using marketing campaigns and social media blitzes to spruce up their image and attract younger residents. Millennials tend to favor walkable, urban-style living, so sleepy suburbs defined by 2-acre house lots don't have much natural appeal. The current thinking: They need to be hyped a bit.

Lake Forest's air of exclusivity, once vital to its stature, had become a turnoff to a younger generation. High home prices, with a median around $845,000, may also be at fault. Beidler and others wanted to round out the suburb's image by showing all that it had to offer—800 acres of open space, high-performing schools, and the lowest property taxes in Lake County. So with about $100,000 in city funding, they hired a branding firm and put together a promotional campaign with the optimistic tagline "Welcome Home."

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