The City of Cleveland and Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s mission for the North Coast Harbor District is to create a dynamic waterfront that engages, enlightens & entertains Cleveland residents and visitors. Guide Studio worked with these organizations to develop and activate brand and marketing strategies to unify lakefront stakeholders around a distinct brand and elevate the area as a must-see destination.
“Guide Studio consistently brings great ideas and creative solutions to the table, and everything they do ties back to the core of our brand,” said Kerr. “They’ve empowered us to become a top tourist and community destination, and we’re looking forward to tackling the next phase of our evolution with them.”
Downtown Cleveland Alliance
North Coast Harbor is the only area of downtown Cleveland where the city meets the lake with walkable public property. Despite being home to world-class venues like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center, FirstEnergy Stadium, and beautiful public spaces like Voinovich Park, the lakefront area sat lifeless on non-event days when visitors lacked a reason to be there. The City of Cleveland and Downtown Cleveland Alliance engaged Guide Studio to develop and promote a unified brand that showcases North Coast Harbor’s comprehensive value.
“People would only visit one venue and leave,” said Jessica Kerr, Project Manager for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with the City of Cleveland’s Department of Port Control to steward North Coast Harbor. “It had accessible parking and top-notch venues, but everything was disjointed and lacked a sense of community.”
Create an effective brand strategy and identity that united and aligned anchor tenants and stakeholders: With the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and the City of Cleveland, Guide Studio facilitated the Stakeholder Engagement process that put many of these organizations at the same table for the very first time, allowing them to develop a shared vision and purpose for this place, which gave rise to the brand strategy and influenced a series of logo concepts to support the new tagline, “City Meets Lake.”
Architect a wayfinding and sign system to identify the district: With the purpose and messaging for North Coast Harbor completed, the team was able to visualize how the area could be transformed into a true urban asset that is embraced by residents and visitors at every turn, that translated into gateway and wayfinding signage that helps people navigate their way around.
Develop a website as the virtual North Coast Harbor home base: With the website, prospective visitors can virtually connect with the district to learn about all of the exciting news and events in one place, which is especially helpful for people on-the-go, rather than having to visit each venue’s distinct website. Additionally, the website provides an understanding of the experience before a visitor arrives, with visuals and photos of the district and events. It provides practical information about how to get there, where to park, and what to do.
Brand and market district events. Special events are at the brand’s core, providing entertainment and opportunities to be “enjoyed and celebrated by all.” Guide Studio branded these events, including North Coast Namaste and Fish CLE for Free. It used those brands to build awareness and draw in locals and out-of-towners, including press releases and media outreach, brochures, hotel rack cards, taxi toppers, signs, website and social media content, and more.
Leverage earned PR to drive attendance for events and build awareness around the district: Guide Studio leveraged the event brands to help tell a story about the experience (or the promise of the experience), which was pitched to area publications and media. North Coast Harbor and the City of Cleveland benefited from earned press campaigns around North Coast Harbor-owned events such as IceFest and Christmas in July.
Engage brand champions: Guide Studio held individual and group brand engagement sessions with the North Coast Harbor stakeholders to garner their support and participation as district brand representatives. In essence, if North Coast Harbor wins, everyone wins. Guide Studio also recommended a North Coast Harbor marketing steering committee to meet regularly, generate new ideas, and identify collaborative marketing opportunities that benefit the entire district.
The multi-faceted approach North Coast Harbor has taken over the last few years — developing a new brand, launching a portfolio of events, and coordinating efforts with all stakeholders — has helped the district make a name for itself among the top things to do and places to visit in a city overflowing with activity. The area that once sat vacant during the weekdays and the football team’s offseason is now bustling with people because of its well-connected brand experience.
“We’re attracting a solid base of regulars — people who live and work nearby — as well as visitors from across the region, country, and globe,” said Kerr. “If you walk through our parking lot, you’ll notice that most license plates are from out of state.”