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What's Hartford's Brand?

Firm Recommends An Ad Campaign That Focuses On Downtown And Live Events


July 27, 2011

HARTFORD How do you "sell" a city like Hartford?

A consortium of business and civic organizations, presenting the results of a 1 -year study Wednesday, said an advertising campaign focused on live events and the city's downtown could be the best way to start.

The idea is to market the city "from the inside out," said R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, CEO of MetroHartford Alliance, a member of the consortium. Once people make a habit of going downtown to eat and see live entertainment, they'll want to branch out to the surrounding neighborhoods, he said.

"The more you're comfortable here, the more you're willing to look outside," Griebel said.

Another goal is to get people to stay in the city longer. Griebel said many visitors come into the city for a single event, then leave.

Marketers are hoping to promote live events paired with dinner and possibly even an overnight stay in a hotel.

"We thought, 'Let's talk about what we have,' " Griebel said. " 'Let's focus on the assets here and promote those.' "

Mayor Pedro Segarra said the city should concentrate on promoting its best attributes.

"I think we can be impressive," he said. "This is about reaching in and digging out the best, and once we put it out there, I think they will come."

The consulting firm hired to create a new "brand" for the city on Wednesday revealed three possible new logos and campaign lines that could replace the "Hartford: New England's Rising Star" campaign launched in 2001.

The first focused on the city's history. The slogan, "Hartford: Make Your Own History" was accompanied by an asterisk-shaped logo comprising five letter "H"s in a circle, forming a star at the center.

"What's Your Hartford Moment?," the second slogan, capitalizes on memories made in the city and encourages public participation. The campaign would invite those who live in or visit the city to submit short videos of their favorite "Hartford moments" to be used in the marketing effort. The logo paired with the slogan is a mosaic using the letter "H."

The third campaign focuses on activities and events, asking: "Hartford: What Do You Want To Do Today?" It is meant to highlight the city's myriad entertainment and dining options, the consultants said. The logo is a square with one letter "H" in the center. The shape of the "H" creates arrows on either side, indicating the many directions and options people have, officials said.

The logos and slogans could appear on the sides of buses, street signs, banners, on an iPhone app or as a desktop background on a computer, representatives of the consulting firm Cundari Group Ltd. said.

The new campaign would target a younger audience people 35 and under, Griebel said. It is meant to draw people living inside and outside of Hartford to city events, restaurants and businesses.

Griebel said the new marketing effort would focus on the city as it is now. He said the "Rising Star" slogan was designed for a different time in Hartford's history, when the Adriaen's Landing redevelopment project was just getting underway and investments were being made in that area.

MetroHartford Alliance paid $200,000 to hire the Cundari Group and cover other production expenses. The Alliance raised the money from the city, the Hartford Foundation For Public Giving and more than 30 other businesses and organizations.

Griebel said the "Rising Star" campaign cost about $1.5 million over several years. He estimated that the new marketing effort would cost several million dollars.

The consortium will solicit recommendations from the public for the next four to six weeks before deciding on a new marketing slogan and logo. Officials are hoping to launch the new campaign in early 2012. To contribute, go to Hartford.com and click on the "Help Sell Hartford" link.

Following the presentation Wednesday, several people gave their opinions about the proposals. Some urged officials to remember the city's smaller businesses when putting the campaign together. Others said they needed to aggressively target suburbanites who come into the city for one event and then leave.

Tom Andrea of Manchester said he wants to feel safe and know what's going on in the city.

"I think there are many of us in the suburbs that need a little push," he said.

Part of Hartford's appeal is its proximity to New York City and Boston without the costs of living in those cities, said Dennis J. Donovan, a principal at the relocation consultant Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting in Bridgewater, N.J., who has visited Hartford several times on business. Marketers need to highlight what makes the city unique and distinctive within the region, he said.

"It's a good location geographically and in terms of what it has to offer," Donovan said. "I think Hartford needs a strong public relations campaign that demonstrates its economic value."

The ideas for the logos were gleaned from a combination of focus groups, online surveys and other meetings, Cundari representatives said. The firm surveyed and met with about 3,000 people from all over the state while preparing its report.

Once a new logo and slogan are chosen, the consortium will begin raising money for the campaign, looking to the state, the city and private companies for contributions, Griebel said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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