Editor’s corner: When in doubt, jump on the brand-wagon

Gov. Josh Shapiro, D-Pa., speaks at a campaign event, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Scranton, Pa. Republican lawmakers on Tuesday advanced legislation for a $3 billion tax cut, their just-unveiled counterproposal to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's budget plan as each side offers a competing vision for how to use a massive cash surplus sitting in the state treasury. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Pennsylvania officials are hoping its “Great American Getaway” slogan paves a road to greater visits. In unveiling the new brand, Gov. Josh Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger joined other leaders at PNC Field in Moosic earlier this week to unveil the state’s new tourism and travel marketing campaign.

How well will its moniker measure up to “I Love New York?” The timeless motto has been synonymous with thinking outside the box for vacationers. It highlights many of the natural wonders of the Empire State that are often overlooked because of the prominence of the Big Apple. Those include the Finger Lakes, the Adirondacks, Thousand Islands and the Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario.

Pennsylvania’s push on Monday was perfect timing. Many Americans are getting away for the long weekend starting today. The Commonwealth hopes to capitalize on its close proximity to New York City, Baltimore, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.

“Here in Pennsylvania, we have it all – from top tier sports and events, award-winning restaurants, incredible hikes and state parks, and the most important historic sites in the country that tell the story of our shared history,” Shapiro said. “More people deserve the chance to come here and experience the magic of Pennsylvania for themselves.”

There is plenty for New Yorkers to complain about, including high taxes and a continued exodus of residents. But when Albany locked in on the “I Love New York” slogan in 1977, who would have thought it would still be going strong?

Repetition and a logo that stands out helps with a brand. But there also needs to be greater buy-in from a larger community.

Too often, branding is looked at as an easy option while allowing the bigger problems of an oversized school district that create a high tax burden to persist. Both Warren County in Pennsylvania and Chautauqua County are facing that dilemma at the moment, much of which stems from declining populations.

In April, with plenty of flair and excitement, officials across the border kicked off their branding of “Live CHQ and Choose CHQ.” As noted at the two events — one held in the north county and another in the south, The Live CHQ is more for individuals, while Choose CHQ is a campaign to encourage businesses to relocate to Chautauqua County.

“We need to continue our business development,” said Mark Geise, chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency and deputy county executive. “We need to continue with our workforce development, continue with making our streets more walkable. And so all of those things in combination, in concert, I think will lead to a good outcome.”

Geise has helped instill a brighter attitude at the IDA by partnering with businesses and having a pulse on their needs. That’s the first piece in bringing change.

With additional backing of the effort coming from the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, there is added strength in numbers. Getting the County Legislature, the school districts and municipalities to be plugged into the campaign is just as essential.

Having one voice matters in building the brand. Unfortunately with Chautauqua County, there are far too many elected officials, each with a different iron in the fire.

Warren County is in a similar position. In recent months, there has been a dose of debate over the creation of Warren Worx, which aims to bring increased population with the promotion of economic development. Two key elements to the initiative are hiring a marketing director and building a new brand for the county of 38,000 residents.

It’s a bumpy beginning that is relying on funding from both the city and county. After months of reluctance, both entities agreed to chip in $100,000 each.

In the big picture, it’s not a lot of cash. But will it be money well spent?

During a meeting of the Warren County Visitors Bureau board of directors this month, some skepticism of the Warren Worx proposal was voiced. It was the perfect setting for that tone.

Casey Ferry, who took over as bureau executive director about two years ago, has been masterful at boosting the local tourism vibe. Through aggressive promotions, in social media and on its web site, numerous events are being publicized in calendars while the county is being highlighted as a destination for natural wonder.

That increase in activity has happened through hard work and an attention to detail, not fantastic phrasing.

Pennsylvania’s Great American Getaway brand has questionable staying power. But it will benefit from early momentum because of state backing. That’s a better position than both Warren Worx and the Live and Choose CHQ efforts.

These smaller campaigns are like voices in a raucous stadium. They’ll be heard by those close by, but get drowned out in the larger venue.

John D’Agostino is the editor of the Times Observer, The Post-Journal and OBSERVER in Dunkirk, N.Y. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 814-723-8200, ext. 253.


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