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As Orlando looks beyond tourism, branding lessons for Tampa Bay

Orlando is tourism, right? That's one metro area with no obvious problem with branding itself. Orlando is Disney is Universal is SeaWorld. … What could be simpler? Such a powerful brand made Orlando a worldwide destination.

Except Orlando no longer wants to be known only as a theme park playground. That's why the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission is unveiling a new branding campaign that includes this slogan:

Orlando. You don't know the half of it.

Clever. It says Orlando has a whole other half to its identity beyond tourism. New branding opens the door for Orlando to market other pieces of its economy. Like its Lake Nona medical complex. Or on-the-rise University of Central Florida. Or Full Sail University, which offers entertainment and media degrees. Or its defense industry.

One mock-up from the branding campaign features an image of a medical researcher with the text, "Fantasy, meet reality." Another depicts a modern office building and the words, "Our home is more than our castle."

That's leverage. Orlando estimates it needs up to $12 million over the next three years to market that message. Its goal? "To attract high-value jobs and foreign direct investment in our region."

Why should we care?

How Orlando broadens its message beyond tourism should influence how Tampa Bay chooses to position itself.

If Orlando simply kept beating the mega-drum of theme parks, Tampa Bay could keep playing off the same old message: "Hey, when you're done with Orlando's theme parks, come over to our awesome Gulf Coast beaches!"

But if Orlando pursues a more sophisticated brand, Tampa Bay may find its I-4 neighbor has turned into a stronger competitor. We might want to hone our own identity.

And what identity is that?

Last year, Visit Tampa Bay — Tampa/Hillsborough County's tourism agency — came up with a fresh brand meant to promote tourism in this region. Its slogan? "Unlock Tampa Bay: Treasure Awaits." It's too early to tell how that is faring.

But beyond a campaign to woo more tourists, what other message does "Tampa Bay" send to the bigger world? Last week, several area business leaders publicly wished this region would better "tell its story" so that people elsewhere knew who we are.

Like Orlando, Tampa Bay is more than tourism and tourism slogans. But we still struggle to articulate what "more" means.

This identity dilemma is not new. In 2011, the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional marketing group, unveiled its regional business plan. Assembled by SRI International, the plan listed the area's top weaknesses. Among them: a "lack of clarity about a cohesive, forward-looking regional identity."

Waltzing into 2014, that regional "lack of clarity" still seems to exist in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area.

We might want to gain some clarity. Soon. Or we just won't know the half of it.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

As Orlando looks beyond tourism, branding lessons for Tampa Bay 01/20/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 20, 2014 11:06pm]
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