Toledo Region expanding marketing message to include quality of lifeWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
A local group that has focused on promoting the Toledo region’s manufacturing and economic development assets is now expanding its message to include the region’s quality of life.
For the past few years, Toledo Region has focused on promoting the area as “the heart of the New Manufacturing Economy,” citing factors like geographic location, access to transportation channels and availability of a skilled workforce. Now the group is looking to showcase the region’s quality of life as well.
“We’ve done some good things so far, but we haven’t gone far enough,” said Toledo Region brand manager Jeff Schaaf. “This next phase is where we’re going to take it to the next level. Now we’re going to have an emotional connection.”
Toledo Region is a project of the Northwest Ohio Brand Council, a group of representatives from various public and private organizations that came together in 2009 to “create a set of tools and messages” to champion regional assets, according to its website.
“Our past was more focused on economic development: ‘This is why you should do business here, because of X, Y, Z. This is why you should like Toledo, because of the port and our Fortune 500 companies,” Schaaf said. “Our new direction is going to keep all that, but include personal life too.
“We want to focus on quality of life because we have some amenities in Toledo and in the region that stack up really well against other cities. Everybody says our museum, our zoo, our symphony and yes, that’s true, and there are a lot of other cities that offer those things. But look at some of our other cultural things, like our jazz history or the water culture. We can go to the Lake Erie islands in the summer over by Put-in-Bay; you don’t have that in Des Moines, Iowa. In Chicago you have that, but you might not be able to afford to hang out over there.”
Schaaf said the exact iteration of this next phase isn’t yet clear, but the plan is to make it more interactive than it has been in the past.
“There may be some sort of a slogan to help kick it off and get some excitement going,” Schaaf said. “There will be events in the future that people will be able to participate in. We’ve played around with having a photo or video contest. There’s so many stories and photos and we want to give people an avenue to participate. We want it to be more interactive, more emotional and make it a better thing than it already is.
“If you look at a city like Austin, Texas, with ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ that came about because it was the normal everyday activities of people down there. That’s what drew people there,” Schaaf said. “We’re not going to be able to force any brand. It has to be real and it has to come from the people.”
To develop the initial Toledo Region branding in 2009, the group worked with a firm based outside the region, with the idea that it would be unbiased and able to see aspects locals couldn’t. This time the group decided to go with Toledo-based design and marketing firm North to take advantage of a local company’s familiarity, emotion and hometown pride, Schaaf said.
“As great as it was to have an unbiased look about who we are, it didn’t provide the emotion we needed in a brand,” Schaaf said. “People identify with Coca-Cola, for example, because of the emotion. They drank it growing up, maybe they always had Coca-Cola on their birthday, so they connect with it. We want Toledo to have that, for people to have that positive attachment with Toledo. So many people already have that, but we want everyone to have that.”
Focusing on the positive is key, Schaaf said.
“We realize we have a distinct brand. We have a distinct feel,” Schaaf said. “When you come to Toledo, you get this vibe and unfortunately the media doesn’t always promote that vibe. It promotes another vibe. We’re trying to counteract what’s happening in the media and show the positive side of Toledo.
“When you go on a job interview, you don’t tell them your faults; you tell them your strengths,” Schaaf said. “We’re trying to promote the good stuff and, as we’re finding the negative stuff, we’re trying to work on that as well.”
The first phase of the Toledo Region initiative was the initial concept and research, Schaaf said. The second phase was developing the story and brand position. The third phase was creating the website and officially launching the brand. Phase four is expected to launch “in the coming months,” he said.
“This next phase will take a look at, ‘This is where we are, this is what we have accomplished, now where do we go from here?’ The assessment phase. Assess and relaunch,” Schaaf said.
Schaaf, a Toledo native who has been involved with the initiative since January 2013, said he’s convinced the region is a great place to live and work.
“I’ve lived here all my life so maybe I’m biased, but there isn’t anything out there I need that Toledo doesn’t offer,” Schaaf said. “Sometimes it just requires a little bit of effort to find it. If you’re sitting on the couch, cool things aren’t going to come find you. The more I get out and interact with people, the more I find out there is some really, really cool stuff going on in Toledo and the region. The more you get involved, the more you learn. The more positive and engaged you are, the better.”
For more information, visit the website toledoregion.com.
Tags: 'Keep Austin Weird', Austin, Chicago, Coca-Cola, Des Moines, Fortune 500 Companies, Iowa, Lake Erie islands, New Manufacturing Economy, Northwest Ohio Brand Council, Put-in-Bay, Texas, Toledo Region, Toledo Region brand manager Jeff Schaaf