Monday, January 16, 2006

GHP strategic plan and marketing Houston

Last week, the Greater Houston Partnership released its new 10-year strategic plan, a process they last went through 14 years ago. The Chronicle covered it, including a call for regional cooperation, and also did their own op-ed on it.

It's ambitious, to say the least, calling for 600,000 new jobs and $60 billion in capital investment over the next decade. It aspires for Houston to be a powerful business magnet, an international business and logistics hub, known for strong infrastructure and quality of life, one of the top four regions in the U.S. for business, and even an Alpha World City. They want to focus on 10 industries clusters: aerospace, alternative energy, biotechnology, education, energy, entrepreneurial enterprises, health care, information technology, nanotechnology and petrochemicals. I was somewhat surprised not to see energy trading mentioned in there, which would give us some financial industry muscle the same way agricultural commodities trading does for Chicago. But on the whole, I think it's a strong "stretch vision" for our city.

This is the part that most caught my interest:
To help it meet its goal, the partnership has enlisted Astros owner Drayton McLane to head up Opportunity Houston, which hopes to raise $30 million for a marketing campaign that will generate leads on businesses interested in relocating here.
Branding Houston is something I've discussed here before, so, as a marketing amateur but someone who has a reasonably good grasp of Houston's selling points, I thought I'd make my best pass at how I think Houston's identity should be branded. Something that would hit on our competitive differentiators: entrepreneurialism, affordability, diversity, transportation connectivity, mild winters, restaurants, friendliness, openness, and a sense of community unity (recently reinforced by the Katrina publicity). I also wanted to come up with something that was equally effective for three audiences: attracting businesses, attracting talented people, and reinforcing local pride and identity.

So here's the very rough concept (within the formatting limits of Blogger) of what a magazine ad might look like in the national or international media (by the way, a side message to the GHP: I highly recommend the Economist magazine for efficiently reaching heavy hitters around the world).

"Houston, we have a problem..."

Where can we find...

...the entreprenurial energy and diversity of an international talent pool, without the exorbitant costs of New York or California?

...the nonstop destinations of a top 10 global hub airport, without blizzard delays or coast-to-coast red-eyes?

...the cultural and culinary amenities of a vibrant big city, but with the authentic friendliness and heart of a small community?

(insert map here of Texas or North America or the world with a star for Houston centered in the map, in addition to some promotional pictures)

The international energy industry chose Houston as their capital, establishing it as a global crossroads and blessing us with an unmatched combination of urban assets.

Care to draft in their wake?

Texas' Open City of Global Opportunity


Here's some of my thinking:
  • Opens with our most world-famous phrase to get attention
  • Really hits on our strengths in a concise way
  • Clearly differentiates us - can you name another U.S. city that meets all the criteria? (keep in mind Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta have a far less internationally diverse talent pool).
  • The middle airport point may seem sort of minor compared to the other two, but let me tell you, it is definitely a big deal to the frequently-traveling top executives of companies. I've heard several people over the years mention the benefits of a central-time-zone hub when it comes to avoiding those all-day or red-eye coast-to-coast flights. And just to clarify: we're not quite a global top 10 airport for passengers or flights, but we are for nonstop destinations (181, in the top 3 in the U.S.).
  • It gives non-energy companies a reason to consider Houston: because of all the great benefits enabled by the energy industry
  • The final tag line: integrates the powerful brand of Texas, our globalism, Mayor White's "City of Opportunity" theme, and our fundamental openness, which is the best single word I can come up with to sum up our friendliness, hospitality, entrepreneurial energy, minimal regulations (including no zoning), open-mindedness, diversity, social mobility, optimism, and charity.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments.


At 9:38 PM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. You dont want to seem like the opposite of NY or Cali in any way. Those are 2 of the most desireable locations to set up shop as a business. Even though it is expensive, these companies know that already. Its like saying "Dont shop at Neimann Marcus, come buy your clothes at WalMart" The last thing you want is Houston to be thought of as a WalMart of cities.

2. Mentioning the energy industry as setting up shop here so that biotech or hi-tech should makes no sense. Most people think of Houston as a sprawling smog-laden oil capital. The last thing we want to do is remind them of the oil capital part.

3. I dont know what you mean by internationally diverse talent pool, but if you mean cheap illegal labor lining 59 then I guess you have a point. Otherwise, Im not sure what you mean.

Things to focus on instead:

1. Largest medical center in the world

2. The most shows and musicals outside of NYC

3. Warm climate, close to beaches

At 10:09 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

1. The marketing term is "positioning against the leaders" - some of their brand value rubs off on you simply from being in the same group for comparison. We're saying you can get their assets without their costs - that's value, and people and businesses like value.

2. Everybody knows we're an oil capital. Ignoring it doesn't help. We have to turn it into an asset, and we do that by pointing out all the great benefits it gives us that they can "draft" off of (like the international talent pool and the strong airport).

3. Stephen Klineberg from Rice asserts we have the most racially balanced major city in America. It's not just Latinos - we have substantial Asian, European, and African populations that mostly came here because of the global energy industry. If you need to run a global business with global contacts , global distribution, and a global labor pool - we're a very good city for that. Third-most foreign consulates in the nation behind NY and LA.

I'm not sure the med center is an asset to hype unless you're specifically targeting biotech or pharma. Most people assume most major cities have adequate medical care.

The shows/musicals are included in the "cultural amenities of a vibrant big city", but you can't get too specific in an ad - and this one is already pushing the limit of too many words and points.

I also like being indirect about the weather, with a focus on the mild winter (the no-blizzards comment). That gives the advantages without reminding them of the summer heat.

At 6:05 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Apologies about the earlier formatting problems. It looked fine in Firefox, but I found out IE was displaying the strange format tags because I pasted in from MS Word. Please email me or comment if you notice formatting problems in the future. Thanks.


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