Category Archives: You will do better in Toledo

“You will do better” signage

“You will do better in Toledo” is in the news again. YWDBIT Day 2014 did not generate nearly the same buzz as the 100th anniversary in 2013, but the use of the slogan on roadside signs at the edge of the city was debuted:

TFP also featured it on its cover with “Yule do better in Toledo” and an editor’s statement.

Sarah Ottney points out some of the criticism of the slogan, such as the apparent lack of a plan behind it. It has to be more than signs and t-shirts. The city needs to add credibility to the slogan by telling stories of people doing better in Toledo, and by taking specific actions to demonstrate it is committed to it.

She also references the Toledo Region Branding efforts, which have similar goals to instill resident pride and help retain and attract talent. One challenge with past regional branding efforts was the confusion about marketing the region and/or the city. I am not sure exactly how “You will do better in Toledo” and “It matters where you make it” fit together, but at least now the core city of the region is starting to fill its branding void.

Let’s keep going, fleshing out both, and figure out the details along the way.

Keith Burris Commentary, 12/29/13

Keith Burris has joined the recent stream of Toledo region brand coverage by the Blade with his Sunday commentary “City branding effort just one part of pitch“. I do not agree with every one of his articles, but I enjoy reading them (and not just because he has an awesome first name).

First, I like some of his key points:

  • The branding initiative needs more resources to make a difference. The branding work needs to be woven in to many other economic development, talent attraction/retention/development, tourism, etc. activities. Branding is not a stand-alone endeavor: it should be a consistent theme in many projects.
  • Grass-roots efforts by the “youngsters” should be tapped and expanded upon. Put more of the young, energetic, in-love-with-Toledo folks in charge.
  • Joe Napoli would be an awesome person to put in charge overall. He knows how to run a company that delivers great experiences.

Second, it is hard to understand the context in a print article. Fortunately, online we can add links for people who want to know more. Here are some references to things Keith mentions:

Third, there are a few things that are incorrect or inaccurate in the commentary, in my opinion.

#1 Definition of branding. At least he did not say it is all about a logo,  but managing a brand is a lot more than “an attempt to give the city a thumbnail, or even bumper sticker, identity for the purposes of marketing.”

I like to use two different definitions of branding to help people see the bigger picture.

One definition is that a brand is a promise. You can communicate that promise thru marketing, but you then have to deliver on the promise.

Another definition is from the experience point of view: someone’s view of a brand is the sum of all of the experiences they have with the products and services associated with the brand.

In both cases, the brand is much more than marketing, and much more than symbols. You might market yourself as being “business friendly,” have a cute slogan and pretty logo for it, but when CEOs deal with you, you had better actually be “business friendly” to them or else your brand will not match your messaging. That means your brand is really determined more by your culture and business processes. It is about who you are and what you do, not just what you say.

#2 City branding vs. regional branding. To my knowledge, the City of Toledo has not had a specific branding initiative (but Future of Toledo team 1 was trying for a while). Jeff Schaaf is leading a regional branding effort, not a city of Toledo one. The city’s brand is an important part of the region’s brand. But the region brand includes the suburbs around Toledo, rural counties in Ohio, and even parts of Michigan. Why? Because that is how the “outside world” sees us: as a region, centered on the city of Toledo but more than just the city.

If you think Jeff’s job is daunting the way Keith describes it – from a city of Toledo perspective – it is even larger and more complex. I think the city needs to step up its branding efforts, as do other cities in the region. And counties. We are competing with other regions around the world, and our economic future is at stake.

You will do better in Toledo

It is nice to see the grass roots efforts around the “You will do better in Toledo” slogan from our history gain some ground. Tuesday, December 17, 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the debut of the sign, so it has become “You will do better in Toledo” Day. Cool! [Added 12/17: the video]

I am far from an expert in the history, but it seems like “You will do better in Toledo” was a marketing campaign to help attract talent to the area. It could turn into a way to do the same 100 years later, a nice connection to the past but updated for today and the future. A few things to consider if we decide to go that route.

  • I am not sure if the original focus was “You will do better in the City of Toledo” or not, but today, it needs to be a regional message. People looking to relocate here may want to work in the city, but live in Monroe, Bowling Green or elsewhere. Or the reverse: live in the city and work elsewhere. Or, live and work in Defiance or some other town in the region: we all benefit. So we should be sure to include stories of ways you can do better in the Toledo region.
  • Grass roots efforts are great, but at some point, if we want to have an impact, then various companies, organizations and other institutions will need to adopt it and build upon it to address their specific talent attraction needs. For example, instead of the Promedica HR folks building their own content and message to attract medical professionals to the region, they could take advantage of the videos, stories, enthusiasm and other informal efforts around YWDBIT and add their doctor-specific materials on top. The Toledo Region Branding initiative is a good start for coordinating this.
  • We should map out specific audiences we are targeting to attract. Who are the best ones? I propose young people who are likely to start businesses as a key audience for these efforts, but there are many more options. Each company will have its focus. Certain job skills (I heard local manufacturers are in dire need of skilled tradesmen who can pass a drug test). Certain industries like solar or automotive. People with a past connection (like people who grew up here and have moved away) or newcomers. From elsewhere in the midwest, only in the US, or immigrants from around the world? We should brainstorm a list and connect organizations who are trying to attract similar audiences to pool resources and collaborate.

There will be some things we can build to enable a regional focus, help companies adopt it, and allow special audiences to get the most targeted messages. For example, has been registered; in theory, it could be a gateway to the grass roots content developed by all of these “Toledo lovers.”

Some of the stories of how you will do better will have general appeal, but all messages will not resonate with all audiences. I suspect some stories that appeal to a cardiologist will not appeal to a welder. If we want to try to attract a very specific audience (example: the brightest Chinese students to study here), then we may want to develop specific stories just for them (like, other folks from China who are already doing better here, telling their stories in Chinese).

With the proper organization and tagging of the content on that site, and on other sites like, then all of this energy and enthusiasm around “You will do better in Toledo” can be the foundation for something great. In the future, perhaps we will be able to share stories of people who saw the YWDBIT content, moved here, and indeed are doing better.