Friday, March 14, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Cleveland

I have recently become infatuated with the efforts to “re-brand” the City of Cleveland.  To most of you that thankfully don’t obsess on minutiae like this, please note that every population center in the country has a little office of worker bees attempting to generate interest and “tourist dollars” in their fair cities.  I don’t know how effective any of these efforts ultimately are, but an effort is made nonetheless.  It makes everyone feel better that at least you tried.  “Well Mitch, we just got the word.  The Plumber’s Convention said it was between us and Vegas, but they went with Vegas.  Damn!  You would think that with our great hotel rates, they would want to come here in January.  Oh well, I feel sorry for those suckers.  Good luck having a good convention there!”  Some cities have a very easy time of tricking folks in for a visit.  Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York I am looking at you!  Some others, like Cleveland for example, have a much less enviable task.

As you are probably aware, Cleveland has tagged itself as The Rock & Roll Capital of the World.  Originally this was because 176 years ago DJ Alan Freed allegedly coined the term “rock and roll” on his radio show, not because Cleveland is the birthplace of the Raspberries or LaVert.  Through heavy lobbying, and probably out and out blackmail money, the city managed to get the rights of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from Jan Wenner and his cronies at Rolling Stone Magazine.  Why Jan Wenner decides where such a museum goes is very confusing to me, but that’s how it played out.  He must have bought “rock & roll” in the early 70s when it could be had lock, stock, and barrel at a good price.  By this logic Sports Illustrated’s editorial staff should have decided the location of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The tough thing about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is that almost all the really high profile events are held in New York.  This is because most of the actual artists in the Rock Hall only want to go to Cleveland when they are playing 50-minute sets at a sports arena and selling the hard working concertgoers $45 t-shirts.  They don’t want to actually hang out here.  Springsteen may be all blue jeans and workingman in his songs, but that dude only shows up at big events in Manhattan.  Mick Jagger does not want to go to South Park Mall.  He does want to go to New York and pay homage to Jan Wenner so they’ll call his next terrible solo record a “classic” though.  This is the horrible truth.

So Cleveland has an association called Positively Cleveland that works as hard as all these other cities in trying to lure conventions and tourists here.  They have apparently decided that the City needs to be “re-branded”.  This is very typical of these organizations, as they have probably grown tired of telling the same people the same old things.  There’s some writer at some crappy travel magazine that has been there for 20 years, and if he already wrote a puff story about Cleveland once in the last two decades, he isn’t going to again no matter what is going on at the Rock Hall or if we finally put up a casino.  Well, not unless he gets hand fed a new angle…  That’s why there was probably a meeting at Positively Cleveland where everyone agreed that the marketing needed to be “freshened up”.  It makes everyone feel like they are getting something done, like they are changing the harsh reality of what they are trying to sell.  It’s a new ballgame.  They are getting away from The Rock and Roll Capital thing, and into something new.  But what is it?  Ah, there’s the excitement!  They plan a great unveiling sometime this month!  Frankly, I can’t wait.

I’m a guy that has traveled around a bit.  Thanks to this two-bit rock and roll band, I have been in every city you can think of on this side of the Mississippi, and most of them on the other side.  I added it up once.  In the Top 50 cities in the United States by population, I have been to 44 of them.  The largest city I have never been to is Oklahoma City.  Trust me on this, as far as I can tell, Cleveland is almost exactly the same city as Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and sorta Detroit.  Toledo is a smaller Cleveland, as is Akron.  Same with Erie too.   With the exception of the Rock Hall, this is basically the same as everything else in the Rust Belt.  All you do is shuffle some details around.  That makes the decision to drop the Rock Hall from the marketing efforts really interesting to me.  It’s the only point of differentiation.  I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with whatever campaign this advertising agency from Kansas City got paid an absurd amount of money to produce.  I have a few ideas…

“Cleveland: Fuck Yeah!”-  This campaign would be like a version of the guy that always throws devil horns at the concert.  I’d run a montage of the typical horribly misshapen NE Ohio residents tossing back beers and not giving a shit about anything except getting wasted.  In the background the commercial could show crap like Terminal Tower and Browns Stadium so viewers would think, “Hey, that seems like a good place to get wasted some weekend!”

“Cleveland: When Your Travel Options Are Limited”- This would appeal to the “millennial” segment that Positively Cleveland noted in an interview that makes 11% of all travel decisions and the same ones that they have targeted.  Note, I would market to the remaining 89% that make decisions, but what do I know?  If you are relatively young and can’t afford to go to Venice, San Francisco, or Bora Bora, why not Cleveland?  This is a tried and true strategy of limiting expectations, like how girls from small towns always marry their shitbag boyfriends because they are afraid to move two hours in any direction and see if anything better is out there.

“Cleveland: Lake Erie… So close, so far!”-  Civic honks love to point out “our amazing lakefront”.  It really is pretty great if you have a nice house perched majestically on the shore.  It’s not so nice if you are looking for public access as our genius leaders from days gone by decided to put an airport, highway, and football stadium in the way of most public access.  Think of how kickass Chicago is, and then imagine the opposite.  That’s how they designed Cleveland.  The Lake is a frozen deathtrap until June.  In September right after Labor Day it is as if someone flicked a light switch off and all warmth disappears.  I’d run TV spots with families leaping over a barbed wire fence at Burke Lakefront Airport and then sprinting across an abandoned runway trying to make the breakwall with their inner tubes.  Maybe have cops in hot pursuit with sirens blaring.  That’ll pack ‘em in!

“Cleveland: Safer Than Detroit”- I can’t tell you how many Euros I know that go to visit Detroit because they think it maybe Motown artists are walking around and maybe Iggy and the Stooges will drive by.  If we could just capture that look of fear in their eyes when they gaze upon the massive urban apocalypse, we’d really have something.  Detroit’s almost zombie like homeless hordes are twice as scary as our occasional “Hey man!  You gotta dolla?” pests downtown.  By limiting the comparisons to the absolute bottom, Cleveland begins to look like San Diego.

“Cleveland:  It’s OK”- The TV creative can point out that we have a good orchestra, Zoo, and park system as if there are no other places where a visitor could experience that with better weather.  I definitely think there should be a jingle package as well with a big multi voice chorus holding the note on “Clevelaaaaaaaaand….” followed by a quick “It’s OK.”.  If enough media is purchased regionally, with a snappy tune like that, even school kids will automatically sing that back at the mere mention of a horrible football team, government corruption, potholes, glacial storms, or serial killers.

As the dates creep slowly by here in March, I wake each morning with the expectation that today might finally be the day of the big unveiling of the new campaign.  I’m like a kid with Christmas morning every single day until this thing is revealed to me.  Suddenly, all of our civic misperceptions will be whisked away in one fell swoop thanks to the whipsmart branding efforts of MMGY Global of Kansas City.  In no time at all, we will all think of this town as Vegas East, or Better Than Chicago.  All we need is that slogan…


At March 19, 2014 at 5:15:00 PM EDT , Blogger Frank said...

At March 22, 2014 at 5:49:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

I will comment shortly


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