It's time to say bye-bye to Rah Rah Rochester.

The Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with the Mayo Civic Center and the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission, has hired a Boston-based firm to create a new "brand platform" for those organizations and the city as a whole.

"This is an important kind of reboot for us," said RCVB Director Brad Jones. It comes right after the almost $90 million expansion of the Mayo Civic Center wrapped up.

The new brand approach is expected to be completed by May.

Representatives of Fuseideas are in Rochester this week to begin interviewing local people. The firm is working with a brand task force made up of members of the RCVB, the Mayo Civic Center Commission and the sports commission. While some Rochester City Council members are represented on the brand task force, this issue will not formally come before the city council.

The word "brand" has become a very broad term in recent years. What does it mean exactly for this project?

"We're developing a brand platform for them. That can mean a lot of things. it's more than a logo, mission, vision or promise and all of that," Jones said. "It really tells us what our strengths are, what our position is within the marketplace and how we communicate that to people. It aligns your organization to how you talk about it, how you sell it, how you market it and how you position it."

He estimates that the rebrand process will cost an estimated $150,000 to $160,000. The RCVB, which is funded by a 7 percent hotel tax, is paying for the project. The RCVB receives 2 percent of the annual funds from the taxes and Mayo Civic Center receives 1 percent.

Once completed, this new brand will replace the "Rah Rah Rochester: More than You Know" slogan created by Ellingsen Brady Advertising of Milwaukee in June 2006.

When Rah Rah Rochester was announced, there was some criticism against the CVB for not choosing a local marketing firm to create a campaign. Mike Pruett, the owner of the Rochester-base MLT Group marketing firm, was frustrated by the choice of a Milwaukee agency in 2006.

Now more than 10 years later, he says he is once again deeply disappointed by how the RCVB overlooked the creative teams in Rochester and throughout Minnesota.

"I think it's a slap in the face of the people in Rochester. It's sad that an organization that gets paid by tax dollars can't use someone in Rochester and keep the money here," said Pruett, who was not asked to submit a bid for the contract.

Jones said that four of the 15 Rochester firms that were sent a Request For Proposal for the contract submitted a bid. A total of 44 bids were submitted.

One of the four Med City firms to apply was Strut Branding, which is based in downtown Rochester. It submitted a proposal with Design Replace of the Twin Cities. A "handful" of Twin Cities companies also bid on the contract.

"This is what I consider specialized work. There are certain firms that specialize in this kind of thing. The benefit is fresh eyes. Somebody to come in and look at us from a visitors' perspective," he said.

Fuseideas has done tourism campaigns for Bermuda; Big Sky, Montana; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Local firms certainly have more knowledge about Rochester, but that background did not outweigh the Fuseideas' branding experience.

"It is important to understand our marketplace and who we are. A Minnesota firm or a Rochester firm might have a little more historical knowledge, but the beauty about history is that you can teach it," Jones said.

Pruett, who grew up in Rochester and has run a marketing firm here for 30 years, strongly disagrees with that.

"You can't teach the feel of Rochester. You have to experience Rochester to really understand its many facets," he said. "If you don't understand Rochester, you end up with something as silly as 'Rah Rah Rochester.'"

Pruett recalled a long-running campaign by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce called "Buy Rochester," which he personally took to heart.

"About 95 percent of what I buy for my business, I buy in Rochester. I want to keep that money here," he said.

What's your reaction?


Business Reporter

Jeff has worked at newspapers as a reporter, columnist, editor, photographer and copy editor since 1992. He started at the Post Bulletin in 1999. Kiger is the PB's business reporter and writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street."

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