Brand Cincinnati – Readers Speak

Some weeks ago, I challenged readers to step into the imaginary role of Cincinnati Brand Manager. We on my Agenda 360 team had been discussing the Greater Cincinnati brand idea, and we thought it a good idea to engage as many minds as possible.

To that end, I asked for your perspective regarding the building blocks of “Brand Cincinnati”: Its character, assets, differences, benefits and overall equity.

I’ll share those thoughts momentarily. But first, I’d like to send a huge thank-you to those who took the challenge. All responses were thoughtful and insightful, and I appreciate the time you invested to create them.

Brand Cincinnati: Character

Let’s start with Brand Character. One reader described Cincinnati as “grounded, goal-oriented, intellectually curious, stylish and enthusiastic.” To another, we are “humble, mild-mannered and grounded in good values.”

A few readers identified a celebrity or historical figure they would associate with Cincinnati. One respondent said that Cincinnati was most like Leonardo da Vinci: “Like da Vinci, Cincinnati has made contributions to help shape our country, such as architecture (Cincinnati Museum, Roebling Bridge, The Ascent), medicine (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital), flight (GE Aviation), and inventions (Procter & Gamble and other Fortune 500 companies in the region).”

Another reader compared Cincinnati to Alice Roosevelt Longworth: “She was fashionable (but not flashy), well-connected, irreverent, vital, and she knew how to have a good time. She made a strong impression on all who came into her orbit.”

Brand Cincinnati: Assets and Points of Difference

On the topic of Greater Cincinnati’s assets and differences, an understandably long list was received. Some excerpts:

“A strong business base, including industry, service, medical and educational. Many cities, including larger ones, cannot boast all four.”

“The remarkable array of high-quality cultural options – music, dance, visual arts and theater.”

“Outstanding recreational options: major league sports, one of the nation’s most celebrated park systems, a first-rate zoo, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking in the lovely Southwest Ohio countryside.”

“Easy to get around… No road-rage-inducing rush hour traffic.”

“Reasonable cost-of-living.”

“Our heritage. Look at the old buildings everywhere, the visual texture they provide. Visit the Mercantile Library, the Plum Street Temple, Over-the-Rhine, the Roebling Bridge. Combine it with the hillsides, and the omnipresent recognition that much of it is reaches back to the 1840s, and it’s a trifecta.”

“Excitement quotient. Cincinnatians love to celebrate the special things about their place: Graeter’s, Skyline, Eric Kunzel, Walnut Hills, Elder, spring, Mt. Adams, the river, and so forth. There is a spirit about the city that is very unusual.”

“Neighborhoods. We have many, and each is distinct as to character and heritage. Individually, they instill in their inhabitants an indelible sense of place that is one of the hallmarks of Cincinnati living.”

Brand Cincinnati: Benefits

And our benefits?

“You can fairly easily (compared to other cities) become a part of it: join a civic club, serve on a board, etc. Cincinnati promotes a feeling of belonging; too often, in other places, the feeling is alienation.”

“You can have a well-integrated life here without becoming overstressed. You can take advantage of the arts, sports or civic involvements, without commuting too long or (for the most part) working 90 hours a week. Cincinnati fosters a respect for balance.”

Brand Cincinnati: Equity

And, finally, the bonus question: Our brand equity – what we should stand for, in 8 words or less. This is the most difficult question for any brand to answer, and our readers delivered:

“A rich life.”

“The Midwestern solution.”

“America’s best-kept secret!”

“Big-city benefits without big-city B.S.” (I like to imagine this one on a billboard, fully spelled out.)

There’s quite a bit to consider in these responses. What does it all add up to? For me, it comes down to one simple thing: We have much to be proud of. That can make for some tough choices when presenting ourselves to the world, but it sure beats the alternative.

And it seems to be in our nature, as residents of this region, to be more than a little humble. Perhaps it’s time for a little well-deserved chest-thumping?

A version of this post appeared in the Cincinnati Business Courier on June 27, 2008, in the column “That Branding Thing.”

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2008 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.