Dayton Patented. Originals Wanted.

Can “branding” a city through a snappy slogan and slick marketing campaign work?

A lot of cities apparently think so, including Dayton and Cleveland, as outlined in this USA Today story.

They point to successful and memorable slogans, like “I love New York,” and “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” It’s also interesting to read the comments under the story- on mentions great success North Dakota has had marketing itself as a “Wild West” destination for bicyclists.

The story doesn’t mention less-successful campaigns. (I’m thinking of the Michael Moore movie Roger & Me, when he mocks the marketing campaign Flint undertakes: “Flint: Our New Spark Will Surprise You.”) It does detail the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism video, which Rust Wire previously highlighted.

I’m not sure how much a slogan alone can do without the jobs and attractions to back it up…but I guess a good one can’t hurt.

Have any other Rust Belt cities tried branding like this? Have they had any success?



Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Good Ideas, regionalism

13 responses to “Dayton Patented. Originals Wanted.

  1. Ha. Randy Vines of STL-Style was interviewed a couple years ago on the St. Louis NPR station on this exact subject. This is what he had to say:

  2. schmange

    Defend Youngstown!!

    I think that these things will be corny and fail if they are made up by marketing people. If they are organic and really snappy, I think they can be very powerful.

    Here’s a bad one: Believe in Cleveland. It depresses me. It’s like, believe in fairies.

  3. Cleveland needs to jump on the foodie bandwagon and brand itself the Comfort Food Capital of America or something. If you ask ten people to list their favorite things about Cleveland, all ten will put the West Side Market somewhere on that list. We might do a lot of things really badly here, but food is something we always, always get right.

  4. I think the bottom line is that it has to hit a commonly known cord and ring true.

    Pittsburgh’s “Imagine What You Can Do Here”, is IMHO, a great tag line, for a city with good location, some creative capital, low costs and cheap housing.

    The problem is the city doesn’t back up the key selling point which implies low taxes, regulations, lack of insider dealing and economic freedom.

    “Hong Kong: Imagine What You Can Do Here”, rings true.

  5. I’ve talked about this to small business owners here and most quikly come back with — “Imagine what their going to do to me” or “Imagine, Getting Screwed” or “Imagine High Taxes.”

  6. Case in point about Cleveland and food: I’m listening to a story on Marketplace right now about how the restaurant/food sector here is the practically the only sector that’s doing well! I mean, I’m not a foodie, really, but this is something that’s really hot in the mainstream right now. This should be Cleveland’s brand!

  7. Interesting. What are your favorite’s? I can’t say Pittsburgh’s very good in that area but it’s getting better.

    The funny thing is why places like Cleveland haven’t become labs for more organic creative businesses. Logically, there are more and more businesses, from publishing, to music and film that are under lots of stress and cost pressure. You’d think a place like Cleveland would fit the bill as a place to do creative things cheaply. It’s happening a bit in Pittsburgh with video game design and publishing.

  8. The best tag line for Cleveland I have heard so far is… Green City: Blue Lake.

    Of course, at this point it sounds absurd, in that Cleveland is hardly green. But, it is on a lake and everyone, everywhere, likely knows that and it also could be a green or greener city.

    There’s a lot to be said for having brands you have to live up to.

    “Believe”, is used by almost every college with a team that hasn’t had a winning season in 30 years.

  9. You know, I’d been wondering about that myself, about publishing. I used to work in publishing in New York, where of course there a zillion creative people. But with the state of publishing right now, how can it go on existing in such an expensive place? Why couldn’t a financially stressed creative industry move, en masse, to the Rust Belt?

  10. Well, you got me on that one. I just can’t answer the question.
    My feeling is there have to be a long list of businesses with low fixed costs that are under lot’s of cost pressures, that would benefit from cheaper locations.

    All kinds of writing and research,
    Editing and publishing
    Video and audio production
    Video Game development
    Economic and Social research
    Software Development.
    Fashion Design
    Product Design
    Film editing
    Music recording and production
    Public Relations

    Let’s just stop there. As we all know, India is moving rapidly up the food chain and biting off chunks when it can. (A lot of Avitar special effects work was done by and India based company in locations around the world)
    I specifically came to Pittsburgh, because i saw this as a decent base to be an artist (long story) and because I expected such a trend.

    As you said, a lot of these are businesses built on thousands of intricate small specialised firms and the network effect has to be huge. A fashion writer in NY just can see a lot more fashion and be more in touch with things. Even so, one has to think that there are huge pressures and a lot of people are in denial. Lots of creative people don’t earn much and would be open to moving, like I did. I think you see this in Pittsburgh with more ex students hanging around and trying to build lives here and a growing number of strange people moving in. (I mean people, you wouldn’t expect, like the Famous NY street artist Swoon who will be here part time)

    I really see this as a big opportunity.

  11. I would really like to talk about this more with you and bat ideas back and forth– just send an email to my blog contact. That for pretty much anybody with with an active interest in this.

    My concept, in general would be to get a bunch of people, small businesses in higher cost cities with a potential interest in moving to get together (on the sly) and negotiate in bulk with a city with an active interest. Most likely we are talking about buying some properties–industrial warehouse space and setting up creative “incubators” and live/work spaces.

  12. Seth

    You should check out From Rust Belt to Artist Belt, a conference that explores artists’ roles in revitalizing cities in the industrial Midwest. There are some cities that have been quite successful in recruiting creative workers (check out, for instance, Paducah KY or Lowell MA)and providing them with low-cost space, and as you noted, Rust Belt cities have some natural advantages in this effort. They may be smaller-scale and lower-visibility, but these projects are gaining steam in the Rust Belt. Check out Techtown or Powerhouse in Detroit, Waterloo Village or Gordon Square in Cleveland, Penn Avenue Arts Initiative and City of Asylum in Pittsburgh. Cleveland is also doing a lot of research at the moment on how to provide artists’ with cheap ownership opportunities of currently vacant and abandoned buildings.

  13. Yes, pretty aware of a lot of these things– of course, Penn Ave– cause I live in Pittsburgh! Been to Lowell Mass which is now way too expensive– and Providence Rhode, Island/Pawtucket which used to be a mini hotbed of artists using old textile mill buildings.

    What, I’m talkiing about here is something a little different but an extension of the idea– an incubator or incubator community for creative businesses–not just artists.

    I still think most places just see this as a way to bring in artists to make area’s hip. This is about treating creative people as an organicly powerful economic force on a big scale.

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