Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Does the Pittsburgh Region need a "brand?"

The Steelers' Super Bowl victory has brought new worldwide attention to the Pittsburgh region. While some news articles about the event have showcased Pittsburgh as a center of technology and innovation, reclaimed riverfronts, and a high quality of life, others have repeated the outdated stereotypes that Pittsburgh is a "Rustbelt city," a "blue-collar town," etc.

This has led to renewed calls to define a clear "brand" for southwestern Pennsylvania. To many, this means a slogan or simple statement about what the region is or wants to be. Yet several efforts have been made in the past to come up with such a slogan or statement, and all have failed. Is Pittsburgh's problem that it doesn't have a slogan? Or is the problem that we think we need one in order to do effective marketing?

Does Seattle have a slogan? Does Austin have a slogan? Does Boston? Does anyone really think that Manhattan is a worldwide center of commerce because of "I Love New York?"

Pittsburgh has a unique combination of strengths that can't be easily summarized in a few words. So let's stop wasting time and money trying to figure out what the words are. They don't exist.

Let's start focusing on the real goal, which is telling businesses, young people, and tourists about all of the aspects of the region that they will be interested in. Some will care more than others about our strengths in innovation and technology. Some will care more than others about our high quality of life. But all will certainly be interested to know that Pittsburgh has all of those things. And once they know, they will be more likely to want to make Pittsburgh their home.

How do we get out the message about how great the Pittsburgh Region is? While advertisements are nice, personal endorsements are better. If we believe in the region, then each of us should make it our personal goal to sell it to someone else.


Anonymous Natalia said...

hear, hear.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Hooman said...

Good post. It is essential that community leaders maintain a directed and clear message that is attractive to businesses outside the region. As part of this effort, however, it is absolutely critical that we not only tell outside firms that Pittsburgh is great, but also actually work to make the region the best place to move a business. Although Pittsburgh boasts low overhead, the current tax structure and government fragmentation is relatively prohibitive.

4:17 PM  
Blogger HELP said...

I came up with a novel "branding" concept for Pittsburgh in my blog back in November. Unfortunately, very few people saw it at the time, but I still believe it to have merit. Check out:


8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all need to remember that our reputation as an industry-first, dirty, smoky city is as old, if not older, than the city itself. It's going to take more than a couple of years to remake the city's/region's image. The college town idea is sound -- as would any approach that emphasized the fact that this is a good town to try new ideas. It's an odd thought for a city were nearly every restaurant offers fried zucchini as an appetizer and has a prime rib special on weekends, but it is a true statement that this place supports unique thinking.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Harold D. Miller said...

I agree that the College City is a good theme for Pittsburgh. In fact, it's already being used as part of a regional marketing effort for college students. There is even a website for it:

However, while it's a good theme, nobody will ever agree that it's "THE" theme or slogan for southwestern Pennsylvania. It has good connotations, but not the complete set of connotations that we want or need. Nothing else does either. And rather than spending any more time debating what "THE" theme is, I think we need to get on with it and use each of these themes with the audiences that will respond to them. We can be a college city for young people, a manufacturing city for businesses, an innovation city for researchers, etc., etc.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

Just walk the walk and let your actions speak volumes. We don't need to talk the talk. Nor do we need to navel gaze and then talk some more. We need people who are frank and action-centered so as to do things that make sense and that lead to rich, full lives that excite ourselves, our families and our professional ambitions.

Nuff said.

Mark Rauterkus

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your "multiple themes" idea is on target, but you have to wrap it up in a package that can be repeated again and again to the key audiences. It's not really "branding", it's a sustainable image building campaign.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What has the regional branding project from 2 or 3 years ago amounted to?

We need real economic growth and then the brand will matter.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Michael Baker said...

A common thread from Pittsurgh's past through the present is its innovation - we have a rich history of firsts. I believe we could have a brand - something like "Experts in the Art & Science of Innovation." It would recognize our illustrious past, emphasize our cutting-edge and multi-disciplinary present, and educate people that we are very strong in both the arts and the sciences/technology.

3:36 PM  

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