Cleveland's New Branding Strategy - Maybe This One Will Take

Lexi Hotchkiss, Communications Director at Cleveland's Tourism and Visitors Bureau Positively Cleveland, says this latest marketing effort isn't about slogans. It's about defining a brand. The phrase "this is Cleveland" has been called a new slogan, but Hotchkiss says it's just a tool, a website - - where text and pictures define the Cleveland experience.

"The best way to describe the essence of the brand is... never mainstream, never meant to be," Hotchkiss says. "And that's not a tagline, that's an attitude, it's our soul. We've never followed anyone else's rules, we make our own. And we like to use the moniker 'We wear jeans to the orchestra and listen to classical music in the bars.'"

Positively Cleveland is rolling out the new brand this evening at its annual meeting. Hotchkiss says it's an improvement over past marketing ploys that were never shown to be very effective, like Cleveland Rocks, or before that, Cleveland's a plum. She says it acknowledges Cleveland's somewhat gritty, down on its luck reputation, and doesn't run from it.

"Really what we're doing is we're capitalising on it, we're not apologizing for it," she says. "We're saying 'Hey listen, we know you've been telling jokes about us, we've been the butt of jokes for years. And we weren't listening that whole time. Instead we were out building buildings, we were creating infrastructure, and we've got a really incredible city.'"

The new brand shouldn't be confused with "Cleveland Plus", which is more of a regional brand still in use to attract new business ventures to all of Northeast Ohio.

Hotchkiss says this TOURISM-focused effort will be aimed primarily toward travelers in nearby cities: Pittsburg, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Detroit - cities within driving distance that are Cleveland's tourism bread and butter.

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