Arts / Marketing / StartUp PHL

New makers marketing campaign is ‘PHL Made’ redux: will it last?

It's another step in a cross-institution marketing campaign to unite economic development messaging by using the PHL airport code. Is this top-down effort doomed to dwindle or an opportunity for the strength of these groups to create a shared identity for the region?

Kristy Jost, a Drexel Ph.D. candidate, works inside the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab at Drexel's ExCITe Center. Graphic by the PHLCVB.
Full Disclosure: The Chamber of Commerce has been a sponsor of Philly Tech Week, which Philly organizes, each of the last three years. The Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, and specifically its PHL campaign, was a sponsor of Philly Tech Week 2013.
Makers are having a moment in Philadelphia and those in charge of selling Philadelphia are saying they want to make them a part of our region’s brand.

It’s a new city marketing campaign called PHL: Here for the Making launched yesterday. If it sounds familiar, that’s probably because it looks like an outgrowth of the never quite realized PHL Made campaign.

The organizers call it the city’s largest joint marketing effort, shared between business attraction organizations and economic development agencies, including:

  • The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation
  • The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
  • Select Greater Philadelphia
  • The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ve seen cross-institution branding before, so it’s worth looking at whether this one has any hope of having real lasting impact.

This is the latest iteration in the spiraling effort to unite regional messaging under the city’s airport code. That effort, which started fall 2012, has been spearheaded by the familar networker Danielle Cohn, PCVB marketing vice president. It was she, who found the local tech-entrepreneur scene by way of outreach to then Philly Startup Leaders president Bob Moul that year, who pushed and prodded for there to be a single, region-wide brand.

Cohn has been called the entire initiative’s ‘spark.’

Since then, she has helped get colorful PHL lapel pins onto the suits of politicians and hotel owners and civic leaders. Mayor Nutter, who has taken to mentioning Cohn whenever she is present during one of his speeches, is rarely seen without one and his economic development advisers have adopted its goals — for example, see Startup PHL.

This particular leg of the campaign aims to paint Philadelphia as a place for all types of “makers,” stretching the term beyond the artisans and digital fabricators you may think and into the tech scene Cohn and her peers have come to know. The campaign includes people like business owners, designers and technologists. Some of the highlighted “makers” include Comcast‘s Chief Software Architect Sree Kotay, who led the local team that built Comcast’s X1 operating system, and Kristy Jost, a Ph.D. candiate at the Drexel ExCITe Center‘s Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab.

The emphasis on technology is notable because it’s a sign that Philadelphia economic development institutions are not just acknowledging the city’s tech scene — they want to brag about it. They want it to be front and center. They believe it’s one of the city’s strengths.

Watch the campaign’s video below.

The nod to the maturation of the local technology sector is acknowledged. But is there staying power?

In an era when terms like ‘grassroots’ and ‘organic’ have glossy appeal, this push to unite promotional efforts region-wide under the PHL airport code is decidedly top down: old-guard power groups printing swag with a fresh brand and producing marketing videos. They’ll build the campaign, and the people will come, you might say.

But it’s unfair to dismiss it for its origins alone.

In November, the PCVB held its annual holiday party, a boozy midday affair before Thanksgiving for hundreds of regional hospitality and tourism officials. Inside a football field-sized downtown Marriot convention hall, there was wall-to-wall PHL branding and a forcibly cheery PHL promo reel video, played on loop on oversized screens standing near every wall.

In one corner, a gaggle of young city officials and tourism representatives were joined by a Philly reporter near buffet-style heavy appetizers and holiday ham. Nutter, wearing a PHL lapel pin of course, was on stage, struggling to be heard over the noise of holiday cheer and afternoon Bloody Marys.

One among the gaggle had recently led a Philadelphia tour for economic development officials from another region. The group, she said, was so impressed by how united our regional leaders seemed to be, in how they talked and what their goals were. Perhaps that’s why, though she couldn’t help but laugh at the PHL excess of the PCVB event, she wouldn’t predict its dithering.

The official looked out from a high top table in the Marriott toward the convention room crowd, many of whom were busy making room for green beans on their plates of salmon. They were the people who run hotels, tour agencies and restaurants that cater to tourists. They were, for better or for worse, the first people many from outside of our region meet when they come here or think about doing so. They are a part of how the Philadelphia story gets told, and they likely won’t hear the messages coming from local tech meetups and unconferences.

“If you get this many of them to agree about how to talk about Philadelphia,” the official said. “It can’t be all bad.”

Companies: Comcast / ExCITe Center / Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia / Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau / Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation / Select Greater Philadelphia

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