by Tom Isler | February 01, 2007

Christopher BaumOfficials in Detroit unveiled the results of a yearlong rebranding effort, spearheaded by the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, at the organization’s annual meeting on Jan. 31. But don’t look for a new slogan -- there isn’t one.

“Most destinations that have launched new branding initiatives in recent years have not been very successful,” said Christopher Baum, right, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the CVB. “One of the reasons for that is it’s hard to encapsulate an entire region in one phrase.”

The Detroit bureau instead identified five strengths of the city -- cars, culture, gaming, music and sports -- and has resolved to talk about Detroit as an affordable and accessible destination with a unique mix of all of these elements.

The new branding strategy does have its symbols. The bureau coordinated with the Detroit Tigers to adopt an Old English “D” that will represent the city at large. It also developed a hot rod with DaimlerChrysler, known as the D-Rod, which Baum says captures the “spirit and power” of the city.

Baum realizes marketing efforts can only go so far, and a city’s success is largely dependent on its inherent assets and the quality of its facilities.

In that regard, he said, Detroit’s hospitality product is improving dramatically, with four new 400-plus-room hotels being built (the revamped 455-room Westin Book-Cadillac Detroit and new properties at the three downtown casinos), a redeveloped riverfront, renovations at the airport and more. Baum is convinced Detroit can compete with other Midwestern cities, given its low average room rates and new facilities.

“Chicago is a great town, but you can’t go there for your Midwestern meeting for the rest of the history of your organization,” Baum said.

For the meetings industry, Baum plans to bring in more planners to witness the changes firsthand and to combat outdated perceptions of the city. He said the bureau also is upping its involvement with industry associations such as Meeting Professionals International and ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, using sponsorships of key events and strategic partnerships.

In addition, Baum plans to reorient and expand his staff to focus on smaller, single-property meetings, an area where he feels the bureau has fallen short.

Detroit is not alone in recasting its image.

* Late last year, the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Convention and Visitors Bureau hired a top Hollywood ad agency to give the destination a boost.

* The West Hollywood Convention and Visitors Bureau will complete its own rebranding study in April.

* Next month, the state of Missouri will announce a new advertising agency after firing its previous agency in October.

* In May, the St. Paul, Minn., RiverCentre Convention and Visitors Authority will unveil its new name and branding strategy in an effort to help distinguish the Twin City from its sibling, Minneapolis.