Building the Brand editorial

The Blade editors printed a commentary entitled “Building the Brand” on Friday. Hinted at 2 weeks earlier, this followed a news article  on the 20th about the branding initiative. (Separate is the work of advertising, the 3rd leg of the Blade organizational chart: see the Treasures of Toledo advertising supplement.)

I agree with the basic premises of the editorial:

  • Residents of the region are stakeholders (the real boss). Key audiences to attract include “employers, residents, visitors, students, and investors.”
  • Promote the positives (beyond “beyond simple-minded boosterism”), and that includes what we are doing to address the negatives.
  • The initiative has not made a lot of progress, at least not as much as most participants had hoped. (I had to go back and search a bit to remind myself when this started: January, 2010.) A broad-base of commitment, money and other resources, has not been established yet. It is still a project by/for too few organizations.
  • This work is an important part of an important goal, establishing the “strength of the economy and culture” of the region.

So, what to do next? This editorial does not really offer any calls to action or concrete suggestions.

To me, the best way to address the chicken-and-egg problem of getting financial support is to pick a specific audience and a small set of use cases, then execute on the branding strategy in a narrow project with realistic goals. Make that project a success, and others will be more willing to sign up to support the next project.

Which audience and which uses cases? It depends on where you expect to get the money from. If that is local companies, then find out their biggest pain points (talent attraction is one challenge, from what I hear) and do a project to alleviate some of this pain. Or, if you want to go after funding by government agencies in the region, then find out where they are spending their money today (to accomplish whatever goals they have) and do a project to make them more efficient.

We need to make the Toledo region branding initiative crucial to the day-to-day operations of local companies and local government agencies.