4 min

Toledo Region Branding Initiative

(My slightly modified Apr 5, 2014 comment to a ToledoTalk thread about branding the Toledo region.)

I say, credit media mogul EconCat88 for igniting this latest trend in branding Toledo's image.

Last fall and this winter, Blade columnists and the Blade editorial board seemed to take a greater interest in the Toledo branding initiative after 'The Hunt for EconCat88.'

Clearly, the Blade disliked the 2009-2013 version of ToledoRegion.com.


Nov 25, 2013 - Toledo must be defined by those who build

What happened to our branding effort? Where is the Chamber of Commerce?


Nov 29, 2013 - Nationwide, most people don’t quite know what to think about Toledo

Give “EconCat88” this much: His narrated videos of Toledo on YouTube, many of them portraying an urban wasteland, have done more to spark discussion of the city’s image than all the work of a branding initiative formed in 2009.

As for Toledo’s branding committee, maybe it should find the reclusive man behind “EconCat88” — and hire him.

That's a little poke directed at http://toledoregion.com .


Dec 15, 2013 - Human assets elevate Toledo

I was still pondering all this when I went to see Keith Burwell at the Toledo Community Foundation. I wanted to talk to him about the Toledo branding initiative.


Dec 20, 2013 - Local firm revising efforts to market the Toledo region

Jeff Schaaf, the Toledo native hired last December [2012] to sell the “Toledo Region” brand, said the effort up to now has painted Toledo and northwest Ohio as the heart of the “New Manufacturing Economy.” It was a narrative designed to tell outsiders the truth about the Toledo they only thought they knew.

“Our DNA is strong with manufacturing. We know how to build things,” Mr. Schaaf said Thursday in an interview with the editorial board of The Blade.

So the Toledo Brand Initiative has hired North, which has expertise in branding and logos, in an effort to tweak both its message and the current “TR — Toledo Region” logo, Mr. Schaaf said.

... North, a local marketing firm that designed the logo for the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia.


Dec 27, 2013 - Building the brand

Jeff Schaaf, who manages the brand initiative for the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, told The Blade’s editorial board last week that the program will move into a new phase early next year that will broaden its message.


Dec 29, 2013 - City branding effort just one part of pitch

So how is Toledo’s branding initiative going? I spoke, a few days ago, with Jeff Schaaf, the brand manager. He is a bright and extremely hard-working young man. He gets it. But he can’t do it alone. Mr. Schaaf is the second person in this job and he mans a one-person office, which has not been well financed.

The branding initiative cannot succeed in isolation. Or on a shoestring. Joe Napoli of the Mud Hens and the Walleye, says the city would need about $3 million a year to brand and market itself well, which is to say, to the outside world.

And that, says Joe Zerbey, president of The Blade and a major player in Toledo civic life, is what we must do: Sell ourselves, not just internally or regionally, but worldwide.


Jan 12, 2014 - Where's Toledo?

I haven’t lived here long enough -- nor am I smart enough -- to figure out Toledo’s compelling brand. But I’m not sure that the people running Toledo’s branding initiative have a clue, either.


Jan 19, 2014 - Toledo is losing the branding battle

Branding a city might seem trivial, but in an obsessively self-promoting nation, it matters.

I don’t have the answer, but the people leading Toledo’s branding initiative need to dig deeper and wider into the community. They need a jolt.

The narrated videos of “EconCat88,” many of them portraying Toledo as a wasteland, probably did more to get people talking about the city’s image than a branding initiative that’s more than four years old.


ToledoRegion.com has spent $500,000 since 2009, and Napoli believes the city/region needs to spend about $3 million per year to promote itself well.

From the Dec 20, 2013 Blade story

To carry out its next phase, the brand initiative will need more money. It has spent just over $150,000 annually the last three years, and while it made the most of its funding, the region is being badly outspent by other metro areas.

“The sad truth is that other communities are raising 10 times the money we are,” Mr. Burwell said. Cincinnati, he said, has a $2 million annual budget to market its brand.

The brand initiative likely will ask its area supporters to increase their financial support after the first of the year, he said. “We need resources to be more targeted and focused,” Mr. Burwell added.


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