Ever since its river caught on fire in the late sixties, the city of Cleveland had become the punch line to seemingly every joke. In addition to a steady economic decline, their sports teams hadn’t won a championship in years and they were always near or at the top of the list of the nation’s most miserable cities. MMGY was tasked with rebranding Cleveland to overcome its identity crisis.
Originally, we were asked to build a brand around “Cleveland Rocks.” After talking with numerous stakeholders and potential guests, it was clear that while “Cleveland Rocks” was well known, it had lost relevance. It would take more than a tagline to overcome the challenges that the city faced.
The new brand focuses on Cleveland’s attitude, not its assets. The initial social campaign designed to make Clevelanders a part of the brand, along with the introductory print, television, digital and twitter campaign celebrate how Cleveland has never been a place for people who follow the herd. A new logo identity, photography and video assets were created to match the new brand and attitude.
Cleveland Brand Bible
Not only was Cleveland selected as host of the 2016 Republican National Convention and as Lebron James’ new home, but the momentum created in local and national media (USA Today cited Cleveland's new attitude as one of the five reasons why it won the RNC) has helped perpetuate and payoff the new branding. This was an important first step in how outsiders, as well as Clevelanders, see the city.
In addition, the city of Cleveland's rebranding and advertising campaign took home the HSMAI's "Best in Show" award at the Adrian Awards in February 2015. Since the brand launch, the city has earned a number of accolades from publications such as the New York Times, Travel + Leisure, and Fodor's Travel as a destination of choice in 2015.
Overall, interest in visiting Cleveland in the next two years rose, going from 18% in 2015 to 21% in 2016, a statistically significant increase. And, this is up from only 9% as recently as 2013. For Millennials, the increase is even more dramatic. In 2013, the percentage of Millennials expressing a desire to visit Cleveland sat at just 14%. This year, that number is all the way up to 37%.
Additionally, tourism officials in Cleveland released 2015 visitor performance measures. The destination welcomed 17.6 million travelers, up 3.7% from 2014. Analysts note that Cleveland's increase surpassed the increases for both the state of Ohio as well as domestic travel in the same time frame.