Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What is Philadelphia's "Brand"?

Patricia Martin, author of RenGen, and an expert on corporate sponsorship and connecting brands with consumers, visited Philadelphia last week to work with some of our leaders in government and tourism who are responsible for marketing the City to potential sponsors. The meeting was organized by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (thank you GPTMC!), and in addition their staff, and me, also included representatives from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the City's Parks and Recreation Department, Historic Philadelphia and others. Pat writes about her Philadelphia visit (which included attendance at the Arts & Business Council's annual luncheon) here. For those of you that don't already follow Pat's blog, consider this a recommendation, and read her "Philadelphia Story" as a first intruduction! I wrote an entry in my blog not that long ago on some recent research she published on how arts groups can better understand and communicate with the Millennial generation.

Part of the discussion involved exploring the "brand" of the City, since in exploring how to better sell City promotions and events to potential corporate sponsors, it is clear that in a sense you are also selling the brand of the City. It was also clear that in all of our individual communications efforts, how we talk about the City in effect helps create and hone that brand, and there is much to be gained by being more strategic and coordinated in our language and messaging.

There was a really engaging discussion about how Philadelphia is perceived both internally and externally and how we can better communicate our core assets.

There was general agreement that as a City we have a "culture of ingenuity", and that this framework can be a useful construct to link our heritage (which essentially involved "inventing" America and the modern democracy, as well as Benjamin Franklin's famous spirit of intellectual curiosity and invention) to our 19th C. period as the "workshop to the world" when we were about designing and making just about every kind of product imaginable, to our current creative energy that ties together our arts & culture scene with technology and science. Think about this past week with PIFA, Philly Tech Week and the Philadelphia Science Festival all happening at the same time - how cool was that?. Our history is not frozen in time like Williamsburg VA, or Machu Picchu, but integrated into and still part of a living, breathing, creative metropolis.

We also discussed that we have a population that "looks like the future" - our increasing diversity mirrors the demographic shifts taking place throughout the country. Not only do we have ethnic diversity but we also have a huge Millennial population, by virtue of our array of colleges and universities in the region - a total of about 300,000 FTE students in the region attending over 100 different colleges. Yet we are not just a "college town." We also have a robust population of Boomers, Seniors and young families.

And - to put it bluntly - "we are NOT New York City."  By this we meant that we have many unique assets that preclude measuring ourselves in relationship to New York. We are not "the sixth borough." Yet our geographic location between New York City and Washington DC, combined with an excellent international airport clearly offers significant benefits from a business attraction, tourism and branding perspective. Our "place" does matter. This is not a knock on NY - I still love NY and love spending time there. This language is a useful shorthand, but Philadelphia needs to do a better job communicating what it IS without resorting to having to say what it is not.

It is interesting to have Pat's take on this as an expert, informed, "outsider" who has the opportunity to travel all over the country and can view Philadelphia's assets and image with that informed dispassionate perspective.


  1. It's great to hear Philly working on it's brand strategy. I went to Temple and lived in the city for five years after. There's so much to love about this city, and your points were right on. I love the diversity, art community, various neighborhoods, and the growing businesses. As an entrepreneur like myself, Philly is a place you can create something no one has done there yet, unlike NYC where everything's been done. I'll definitely be back to Philly to settle down.

  2. Do you have to be from somewhere else to love Philly? In 2005, I moved here from DC to work at the Kimmel Center. I absolutely fell in love with this city and I'm always surprised when Philly natives are surprised to hear that. Not only is it one of the most photogenic places I've been to, but it has a cultural vibrancy that is absolutely engaging. Now that I'm managing director of one of the city's prized jewels, Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble, I have come to treasure it even more.