A group of area business development leaders went a bit above and beyond the usual in introducing the latest strategy to market the Northeast Ohio region. The Cleveland Plus campaign was officially unveiled yesterday 3,000 feet above the city. ideastream's economics reporter Tasha Flournoy has more.
About 70 businesspeople, government leaders and media reporters took flight from NASA Glenn Research Center for the campaign launch. From high above downtown, organizers from the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Team NEO outlined the result of 18 months of research and focus groups. Rick Batyko is vice president of regional marketing at the Greater Cleveland Partnership.
Rick Batyko: We wanted to introduce our new brand this way because we don't see borders. We don't see anything but one region in Northeast Ohio. A region collaborating for the future in ways like we've never seen before.
Business strategist Dan Smith was a passenger on the Continental Flight. Smith says he moved to the region from New Orleans about three years ago to work in the restaurant and nightclub industry and is sold on the new branding. He says the inclusiveness of Cleveland Plus (Akron, Canton, + Youngstown) moniker highlights the accessibility and ease of getting around the area.
Dan Smith: I like the idea that it gives an identity to a region without saying the term region. That people who might come to the football hall of fame, might think hey maybe I'll go to the rock hall of fame too another day.
Reaction on the plane to the strategy was overwhelmingly positive. On the ground, Akron Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth was a bit more circumspect. Deputy Akron Mayor Dave Lieberth says there is a history of marketing the region. Akron has a history promoting the region in Europe and Asia.
Speaking on 90.3's The Sound of Ideas, Lieberth said even though the alliance reached out to city leaders for input on the branding campaign, they still have concerns that the branding and logo relegates Akron to a sort of back-seat status. He used a common joke to illustrate that disconnect that sometimes happens within the region.
Dave Lieberth: People in Cleveland don't know that I-77 runs two ways. They think that it only runs north. But it's always been our concern to get people from Cuyahoga County and Cleveland to see what Akron has to offer. And we've been very successful and prosperous economically.
Even with ads already displayed, some community members aren't too keen on the new brand. One caller to the show said she's not against the campaign, but the name, she said, doesn't bring pleasant thoughts to mind.
Jill: When I hear the phrase CLEVELAND PLUS the first thing I think of is plus size. And I think the image is one of overweight unattractive population that doesn't lend itself to a real marketing ploy.
Dennis Roche: Whatever name you test is going to generate some reaction positive or negative in every party.
That's Dennis Roche who heads up the Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says the brand is adaptable and believes all the communities understand that.
Dennis Roche: It is recognized that outside the region Cleveland is the name that generates the most response. It's the brand with the most value or equity as we would say.
In combination with the logo, the campaign will use three different slogans targeted at different audiences. For potential business investors the logo will read, "It all adds up." Tourists will be welcomed with, "Just add you." And, residents will see, "We've got it all together," a rally cry to unify the region.
So far the group has spent about $200,000 on research and raised about $3.5 million in investments. Joe Roman, the head of Greater Cleveland Partnerships, says he expects the campaign to continue, for the next seven to ten years. Tasha Flournoy, 90.3.