Toledo Blade article, Sunday, February 10

The Toledo Region branding efforts are in the news again: this time with the lead story in today’s Toledo Blade business section:

Jeff Schaaf, 37, brand manager for the Toledo Brand Initiative project, stands near the Web site of

It is great to see Jeff Schaaf featured! I am looking forward to helping him (and the others involved in the effort) take it to the next level.

In general, Jon Chavez wrote a good article. What I liked:

  1. Focusing on the initiative entering a new stage. The work now is less about “what is the brand” and more about “getting groups in the region applying the brand framework to help them accomplish their goals”.
  2. Mentioning the New Manufacturing Economy theme.¬†NME is a key concept and we have not been explaining it enough. There are still many people who do not understand what it means and are using other “less visionary” terms like “advanced manufacturing”.
  3. Reminding people how we got here and stressing the long term benefits. Telling the history of the project is very important. It has been a long and somewhat winding road, but that is how these things go.

Being nit-picky, there are some things that the article exposes that are I believe the branding effort can improve upon.

  1. “…go out and sell the completed “Toledo Region” brand.”¬†Brands are evolutionary, they are never “completed”. The new stage is not only about selling: it is listening to the needs of other stakeholders in the region and helping them adopt the brand framework. For example, several companies may need a video to recruit talented people (like doctors, entrepreneurs & engineers). Instead of each company doing separate videos (that may not tell the same brand story), they should coordinate to create video content that can be shared. “Selling” is an OK way to think about the next stage, but “partnering” and “adoption” are better ways, in my opinion.
  2. New Manufacturing Economy is not the only theme that is needed in the brand framework. NME is great in the economic development context (“Hey, CEO, you should locate your company here!”) but it is not the right message when talking about the Toledo region in other contexts. For example, if you are trying to convince people from outside the region that they should vacation here – the Tourism context – then we need to talk about fun and recreational activities. It is still the same brand framework, but you tell different stories (and the same stories in slightly different ways) depending on who you are talking to.
  3. Narrow view of “the region.”¬†Specifically, excluding the parts of Michigan that are in the region by using terms like “Northwest Ohio.” “NW Ohio” is a common shorthand, but it is inaccurate. I find that it helps to use examples from the “edges” to remind people of the geographic scope. Mentioning Monroe county, Cedar Point and Lima, for example, reminds people this is not just about the city of Toledo and the suburbs that border it.

One of the most important “big tests” was not mentioned: having the brand system adopted by the city of Toledo as part of the Future of Toledo initiative. That is moving along well.

Overall, a good article and it is nice to see the Toledo Region branding initiative moving to the next stage.