LilaTovCocktail: Ingredients: one part NE Ohio; two parts politics; two parts media, and one part each: culture, family & the Jewish community. Directions: Shake well.

'Insularity and Arrogance' in Northeast Ohio: Has the region's brand gone sour?


"Outside an orbit of about 40 miles from Tower City, no one seriously considers Cleveland+ to be a regional brand. People in Akron and Yongstown joke about it, though."
Maybe I'm the wrong audience, but I've never liked the Cleveland+ brand.

For one thing, it had to be explained to me. No, it's not like HIV+, which is pronounced HIV positive. It's pronounced Cleveland PLUS. Plus what? Apparently plus all those other less important cities that don't bear mentioning ...

The branding is explained at length on the website.
Cleveland+ is an entirely new way to look at Northeast Ohio — as one
united region leveraging all of our strengths.

Focus group testing "in multiple markets and included regular leisure travelers, business site selectors and C-level executives" found that:
  • Cleveland+ works for marketing Northeast Ohio for travel, meetings and conventions, and business. Many of the other names did not.
  • Cleveland+ leverages the most recognized city in the region.
  • Cleveland+ allows for the linking of our other major cities.
  • Cleveland+ provides a memorable icon for marketing materials.
  • Cleveland+ has a positive connotation to it.
And yet ....

The phrase boils Akron, Canton, and Youngstown -- and all the small towns and suburbs in between -- down to a footnote on the main attraction: Cleveland. The implication is that Cleveland will be the epicenter of northeast Ohio's economic future, which directly contradicts the idea of regionalism.

I'm sure it was tough to find a good name for the northeast Ohio brand (although Northeast Ohio isn't that bad, is it?) The problem is that regionalism is a complicated concept, involving countless resources and relationships. How to come up with a brand that indicates the richness of the region? And at a moment when regional connections are still in their infancy?

I don't know the answer, but I'm certain that Cleveland+ is not the solution. The brand reduces the region down to less than the sum of its parts.

And the flawed brand has become an emblem of Clevecentrism: an implicit and unchanging focus on Cleveland as the locus of the area's future.

According to community development guru Ed Morrison, reducing the region to nothing more than Cleveland plus enhancements to be named later is arrogant and insular. And insularity is detrimental to the whole idea of creating a region strong enough to compete in a global economy.

Morrison comes to the topic by way of the R2P: Return to Pittsburgh blog by Jim Miller, who argues that TeamNEO's competitiveness with other rust belt regions (like Pittsburgh) weakens northeast Ohio's ability to recognize and nurture existing regional relationships:
I'm still angry about Team NEO's ignorance of the economic challenges facing Cleveland and other Rust Belt cities. Team NEO is reinforcing the same dysfunctional geography that birthed the obvious gap between Pittsburgh and Cleveland in President Obama's proposed high speed rail initiative. Framing Pittsburgh as competition ultimately hurts other Northeast Ohio communities, particularly Youngstown.

Surprisingly, at least to me, Pittsburgh leadership seems to appreciate Youngstown's plight better than Cleveland does.
Morrison agrees and offers as proof the ever-widening gap in per capita income between Cleveland and Pittsburgh over the last decade. He concludes:
"Insularity and arrogance impose costs. These costs rise as regional and global economies become more inter-connected.

The legacy of this generation of Cleveland’s business leadership is already being written, and the picture is not pretty."

Related Posts by Categories

Widget by Hoctro | Jack Book


Keep up with LilaTovCocktail

Subscribe by RSS

Get posts by email

Follow on twitter

Media transparancy

  © Blogger template Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP