Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This is Cleveland! We Do It Our Way!

On March 19, Positively Cleveland rolled out their new travel and tourism campaign. They had caused a bit of controversy by announcing weeks before that they would be phasing out “Cleveland Rocks” (more on that later) and many keyed in on the fact they were using a Kansas City agency (not local) to develop the campaign, so many of us were a bit more primed to see what would be replacing it. Here are my takes on some of the key elements from the event and campaign. 

Launch Event
Positively Cleveland did an incredible job of building up the new campaign, the thought process behind it, the research they conducted and the excitement for what’s to come. The event was capped off by the video below. I like the rebellious tone that talks to how Cleveland is what we are...not what people want or think we should be. No apologies. We made our own way. Proudly. 

This Is Cleveland Video

Keep in mind, this isn’t meant to be the actual ad they’ll use, but it will build off of it. I came away from the event feeling a lot of pride for the city of Cleveland and I’m excited to see the actual ads they’re going to use. Their use of images from all aspects of the city was shown over music from a local band, Welshly Arms, with a narrative explaining who we are.

I purposely waited a week or so to go back and watch the video again. I wanted to watch it without the buildup and after the initial excitement wore off to see if it still resonated as strongly. Honestly, some parts do and some don’t. The song sets the right mood with a touch of attitude. The words telling our story get a little distracting and take away from some of the images, but the actual ads will be shorter and more concise.

There are some great images of just about everything you can think of to do in Cleveland...although the Casinos (both Horseshoe and Rocksino) were conspicuously absent, as well as Superman and there was very little Cleveland Browns. They plastered images of the Rock Hall and music throughout, so the rock theme is still strong (as they said it would be). However, no Hard Rock CafĂ© or House of Blues. I get those are in many cities, but you’d think you tie it into some of the music scenes to give reinforce the music scene.

They show a lot of food, museums, scenery...most of which you can find in any city. We recognize what they are and why they stand out to us, but I’m not sure someone outside of Cleveland will understand why they’re special. I’m curious to hear more of what their focus groups thought of the video. But it still instilled a sense of Cleveland pride that I hope translates to potential visitors.

This Is Cleveland Tag line
This to me is the biggest miss. It’s way too generic for what they built up. It doesn’t fit with the “we do things our way” theme. Any city anywhere can use “This is _____”. It doesn’t feel special or unique. I understand that its simple, adaptable and easily spread, but it can also be easy fodder for the comedians and those already mocking Cleveland. Much has been said about Positively Cleveland not using a local ad agency to develop the concept (Ad Com will be executing much of the campaign), and this tag line does nothing to temper those feelings. At the very least, they could have personalized it more by having it be “We are Cleveland”...but even that would fall a bit flat.

Cleveland Rocks

I can’t not at least mention my thoughts on moving away from “Cleveland Rocks”. I’ve always really liked the slogan because it can be adapted to any of our great features. It doesn’t just have to be about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The biggest reason I like it is because (like it or not) the Rock Hall is our biggest differentiator and the most unique part of our city. Every city can claim great food, museums, nightlife, etc. But, there are few great music destinations and there’s only ONE Rock Hall.

Their research found that it doesn’t resonate with the Millennial group they are targeting which I can understand. They still capture the strong rock vibe of Cleveland, so I can live with moving on to something new. But, to the person that said, “if you have to say you rock, you probably don’t”, we didn’t say it. Ian Hunter did. We adopted it, and rightfully so. And besides, he’s probably the same guy that yells at you to sit down at a concert or football game...

Overall, even with the nitpicking above, I do like the direction and thought process. I’m hoping they’re paying attention to the feedback and suggestions to be able to work some of them into the actual ad campaign to make it even better. It has the right attitude for Cleveland and truly gives tourists a sense of who we are. It makes me proud to be from Cleveland and excited to welcome all who want to visit our great city!

I’m curious of your thoughts. Do you like it? Love it? Hate it? What would you do differently? Comment below and share this blog with your friends! As always, thanks for reading!


  1. I split much of my time between Chicago and Cleveland and I put this campaign in front of a few of my Chicago friends, and their reaction was pretty consistent: "I don't care". Although I appreciate the pride a typical Clevelander feels toward this city (I was born and raised here) it simply does not resonate with anyone outside of Cleveland. Are we expecting to attract attention by asking outsiders to appreciate our hardships and pride? That does not make Cleveland a destination. We've simply put ourselves on the level of every other rust belt city, or any other city that has been challenged by recent economic hardship. Cleveland has so much to offer aside from the rock hall, the orchestra, and decent food. This campaign misses what's truly unique and attractive about Cleveland.

    1. Darren,
      Thanks for reading and offering your comments. I appreciate the feedback from your Chicago friends. That to me is the real key. We as Clevelanders can love it or hate it, but how do potential tourists view it? If they don't care, it's time to go back to the drawing board. The whole point is to drive more visitors. Did they have suggestions of what would appeal to them? What would you focus the message on?