Face it, Toledo. We’ve got a problem.
Put it this way. Picture what comes to mind when you read “The Big Apple.” Hot on the heels of that title spill forth terms like The City that Never Sleeps, Broadway, Times Square, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, never-ending energy and stimulating diversity.
Try another one. The Windy City. Chicagoland USA, the City of Big Shoulders, working class grit and the Magnificent Mile, Capone and Boss Daley.
Catch your breath and get ready for a third rush of urban get-up-and-go. DoToledo!
Sorta falls flat on the ol’ ear drums, huh? We’ve got a problem. Our branding stinks.
It wasn’t always that way, mind you. English-speaking people across the world have heard the exclamatory, “Holy Toledo!” A reference to the many churches in our fair city or an ironic jab at the Prohibition years when our proximity to Chicago and Detroit made us a great way station for underworld rum-running. It’s much more poignant and recognizable than “DoToledo!”
Then there’s the old standby, “The Glass City.” The modern glass industry began in Toledo, as Edward Libbey, Michael Owens and Edward Ford converged on our city due to its abundant resources, as well as its location on transportation routes. The float glass industry started with the eponymous Libbey-Owens-Ford. Libbey started a cut-glass and now dinner glass behemoth in Libbey Glass, and Owens started what became Owens-Corning and the bottle manufacturer that became Owens-Illinois.
Industrial glass manufacturing in Toledo led to the development of the Art Glass movement at the Toledo Museum of Art, endowed by Libbey’s fortune.
Alas, LOF, bought by a British company, has largely left the region. O-I moved from downtown to Levis Commons. Simply stated, “Glass City” sounds like a paean to the past rather than a rallying cry for the future.
But “DoToledo?” That sounds downright X-rated.
Yet that’s the best a long term, well-funded rebranding initiative could come up with. It was quickly dropped in favor of the equally bland and unremarkable, but at least G-rated, “Destination Toledo.”
Go to dotoledo.org and you’ll reach the Destination Toledo website, of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Don’t type in dotoledo.com or you’ll go to a strange site with a sponsored link to Ohio and Michigan strippers. And we don’t mean paint strippers, either. Nope, that link takes you to the site of Samantha Roxy, who promises “The Absolute BEST in Erotic Entertainment.” A great motto in its own right.
The Destination Toledo site has a clip art-style logo with a bridge, baby elephant, fish, fireworks and the equally unassuming motto, “Live.Learn.Work.Play.” The site suggests, with accompanying pictures, things to do in the Toledo area. Among their suggestions are to check out jazz at Manhattan’s, which no longer has live music, with an inviting picture of deceased pianist Claude Black playing at the former Murphy’s jazz club, which closed in 2011. The site also suggests going to Raceway Park, which closed late last year.
Most of the rest of the ideas are still in operation, so don’t get the impression that Destination Toledo is dwelling on Toledo’s demise. Which brings to mind the short-lived suggested motto, “ToledOH!”, using the Homer Simpson expletive.
Of course, other groups selling the Toledo region to potential investors have their own mottoes. Consider the Regional Growth Partnership website – “Building a high tech, high performance economy!” Or the University of Toledo, enticing prospective students with “More ways to create your future!” Or the Port Authority, reminding folks of “Global access through the Port of Toledo!”
Of course, these pale in comparison to the branding sprung on visitors to the at Toledo.oh.gov. “Welcome to the City of Toledo!” Or the more comprehensive admonition from the City’s Facebook page, “You'll do better in Toledo not just because of our culture, education and diversity, but because of those who make up our amazing City!”
And then there’s the redundant efforts of the folks over at toledoregion.com, who have one-upped the DoToledo peeps with “Live.Work.Learn.Enjoy.” with the subtle substitution of “Enjoy” for “Play.” Sheer genius!
But fear not, gentle readerz. A rejuvenated rebranding effort is again underway, for obvious reasons. Will it be the 100-year old “You Will Do Better in Toledo,” as some including Hizzoner Uncle Dennis have suggested? Or something else as yet unrevealed?
We wait with bated breath. Anything is better than the current mishmash of uninspired drivel. Except for the Samantha Roxy site. That’s fine as is. DoToledo, indeed.