In June 2013, the Greater Houston Partnership hired Avalanche Consulting to develop a Brand & Marketing Strategy for the 10-county region. We immersed ourselves in an eight-month research and strategic planning process that culminated in a regional brand identity, creative campaign, and marketing strategy that has been wholeheartedly embraced by the region.
Discovering the roots of Greater Houston’s brand began with an unprecedented level of research that involved hundreds of individuals both inside and outside of the region. This included extensive quantitative analysis and benchmarking; dozens of individual interviews, including conversations with the Governor’s office and international consulates; 13 focus groups with 10-20 participants each; and surveys of 300 Houstonians, 104 site consultants, and 50 C-suite executives. This intensive research process leads to brands that go beyond the clichéd slogans and untargeted messages that often characterize economic development marketing initiatives.
We discovered that Greater Houston’s economy far outperforms most places. Between 2012 and 2013, Greater Houston created more jobs than every state in the US except California, Florida, New York, and Texas.
The region’s extraordinary economic performance was no surprise to people outside of the region. Many interviewees were aware of Greater Houston’s booming oil and gas economy, Fortune 500 headquarters, and world-class medical industry.
But that’s where similarities between reality and perception ended. When asked questions about the region’s quality of life and entrepreneurial spirit – two factors critical to attracting talent – external audiences’ perspectives were more negative than reality.
Without exception, we found one common theme in all of our conversations with Houstonians: There is no better place in the world to be for people with ambition. Greater Houston has an endless sense of possibility. Houston’s entrepreneurial culture is without peer. The region’s culture inspires people to act on their ideas and supports their success.
We realized that the region’s future depends and raising awareness of the region’s entrepreneurial spirit and quality of life that appeals to entrepreneurial minded people. We were driven to create an economic development brand that defined Houston as a place to be. It needed to reflect the region’s adaptability, accessibility, and accepting nature. It also needed to reflect the myriad opportunities for residents to have a vibrant life and career.
Greater Houston’s brand was born to celebrate the region’s endless sense of possibilities:
Greater Houston’s brand identity impacts more than just economic development. It affects every organization in the region’s ability to recruit and retain talent, attract visitors, draw in students, and increase entrepreneurship.
The task force that advised our work consisted of a wide range of organizations whose own marketing activities affect the region’s image: the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Houston Texans, the Texas Medical Center, local economic developers, local media outlets, universities and colleges, Houston First Corporation, major corporations, homegrown companies, the City, the County and many others. In the end, the “No Limits” brand has been embraced by these organizations as well as the GHP. You can see their enthusiasm for the brand in this “Making Of” video:
Once the brand concept was finalized, specific strategies for each target audience, marketing tools, and target geographies were developed. Detailed timelines, budgets, and metrics were also provided. This included campaigns for both talent recruitment and business development. Comprehensive brand guidelines were provided to all participating organizations. Essentially, Greater Houston now has a clear roadmap to successfully implement the Houston: The City With No Limits brand.
The campaign launched on June 3rd and will continue for many years to come. Our partners at MMI Agency flawlessly executed the creative brand development, website, video, and other campaign tools. The initial focus is on internal marketing and reinforcing Houston’s new brand within the community. The campaign will be taken to external markets in the coming year. Implementation to date includes a robust website and social media presence, collateral development, recruitment of brand ambassadors, and events such as Houston CityFest. One creative, interactive component includes profiles of real Houstonians who share their unique version of Houston. This showcases the diverse career and lifestyle offerings and will be used in the external talent attraction campaign. Metrics to monitor success include economic indicators, benchmarks, perception surveys, marketing metrics, and STEM-related talent indicators.
Less than three weeks after its launch, the campaign generated more than 7.1 million impressions through traditional and social media channels. The website had more than 77,000 page views and the featured video, “The Best Day of My Life,” was loaded more than 33,000 times. 134 people subscribed to the e-newsletter and 149 people signed up to become brand ambassadors for Houston: The City With No Limits. In 2015, the online job portal Careers With No Limits was developed.
The Greater Houston Brand & Marketing Strategy is an example of how a well researched, authentic, defensible, inspiring, and honest brand can elevate a region. Greater Houston’s image resonates with its target audiences, and GHP is now equipped with the tools to successfully communicate with business and talent alike.
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