This is a Story About the New Branding Effort Here in Cleveland

This is the first sentence of a blog post about the new branding effort from Positively Cleveland. "This is Cleveland." This is the new slogan for our city, meant to boost tourism on some level and ostensibly stir civic pride. This is the resounding "huh?" you'll hear throughout the month, leading up the big reveal of the massive and ultimately heftier branding campaign on March 19.

This is a link to Positively Cleveland's website, which shows off all the cool stuff you can do in Cleveland. This is a reminder that "this is Cleveland."

This is an invitation to drop a comment at the bottom of this page and praise or decry the new slogan. This is an admission that, yes, the slogan is primarily targeting out-of-towners. This is a native Clevelander nonetheless wondering what in that slogan "brands" this city in any meaningful way for the uninitiated.

This is an excerpt from Sam Allard's interview with Positively Cleveland President/CEO Dave Gilbert, who oversaw the rebranding process:

You're also in charge of Positively Cleveland. What's this I hear about a new branding effort?

We are kicking it off in March. And this is mostly for out-of-market people. Our job at Positively Cleveland is to advance the travel and tourism industries, and ultimately to bring more people to town. We've done a huge amount of research. We brought in the largest and best destination-branding firm in the world. They've done work from Barbados to Buenos Aires to Trump Hotels. It's a firm called MMGY Global (ed note: based in Kansas City, Mo.) and they blew our whole committee away with their approach.

What was so special about it?

They really did a lot of research of people's perceptions, and the fact is there's a visceral reaction to the word "Cleveland." They'd really never encountered this before, at least not at this scale. Their contention is that those crazy jokes about Cleveland exist and you have to meet them head on. You can't stick your head in the sand. Ultimately, what the brand is about is changing the narrative of the word Cleveland.

My sense is that those visceral reactions are much more pre-programmed in the older set. The boomers.

The research shows that absolutely. And not to the exclusion of others, but this effort will be geared more toward Millennials. The reason being that Millennials are the most open to visit Cleveland and the most open to new experiences. Right now, Millennials make 11 percent of travel decisions, but by 2020, they'll be making 33 percent of all travel decisions in America. It's the market segment where we need to target our resources to get the biggest return on investment.

This is repetition for emphasis: "We brought in the largest and best destination-branding firm in the world...and they blew our whole committee away with their approach."

This is Cleveland.


THIS IS AN UPDATE: This is the most recent tweet from the person behind @ThisIsCleveland on Twitter (likely unrelated to all of the hoopla above):

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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