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Orlando: We're More Than Just Mickey Mouse

Economic Development Marketing Campaign Aims to Bring Businesses to Central Florida

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What comes to mind when you think of Orlando? Chances are it involves a mouse.

That's the impression the city's Economic Development Commission is trying to counter with its new effort themed, "Orlando: You Don't Know the Half of It."

The TV, print, digital, social media, out-of-home, PR and direct mail campaign, created by Anson-Stoner, Winter Park, Fla., aims to get businesses thinking about moving to the Orlando area by dispelling the myth that the region is all about tourism. According to the OEDC, only 22% of Orlando's employment is related directly to tourism (out of the 33% directly or indirectly related to tourism).

Orlando, said the organization's president-CEO Rick Weddle, " is well known, but poorly understood."

The public-private partnership has enlisted 40-plus companies, including Massey Services, SunTrust Bank, Tupperware Brands, Duke Energy -- and yes, Walt Disney World -- to help fund the effort, which it hopes to spend up to $2 million a year on for the next three years. The five-year goal is to draw 17% more jobs, $600 million in new payroll, $1 billion in gross regional product and $2.2 billion in sales to Orlando.

Specifically, the campaign is targeting five industry sectors: business services; advanced technologies; film and digital media; life sciences and healthcare; and aviation, aerospace and defense.

It's no coincidence tech is high on the list. The cities that came out tops in the Milken Institute's Best Performing Cities list in 2014 are tech centers, including San Francisco, Austin, Provo, Utah, and San Jose, Calif. Orlando did not make the top 25 on the Milken listing, though it did make the report's biggest-gainers ranking, rising to No. 56 from No. 98 the prior year.

The OEDC push is heavily focused on digital and social (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, search marketing) with targeted print running in publications such as Site Selection magazine. The organization's video, which uses clever language to hint at the city's "belief in magic," and refers to it as the "home of happiness" is also running in local hotels and Florida hospitals. One goal is to make local residents evangelizers for the region, which encompasses Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties as well as the City of Orlando.

Interestingly, the lead marketer on the effort to brand Orlando as more than a tourist destination represents one of the biggest tourist destinations of them all: Disney. Ken Potrock, senior VP-general manager Adventures by Disney & Disney Vacation Club, is spearheading the OEDC push. Mr. Potrock said the initial challenge was getting the branding theme right, which took several iterations.

"No knock against Akron, but I didn't want a tagline that could have worked if it had Akron attached," he said. "We were going to tear them all up until the agency came in with just one more," which ended up being "You don't know the half of it."

Disney is the largest employer in the Orlando MSA, followed by Universal Orlando, Adventist Health, Walgreen's and Darden. Three of the top 6 employers in the area are theme park operators (the third is Sea World).

So why ignore the goose that lays the golden egg?

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the campaign will ultimately enhance the tourism industry by drawing more people who will visit its parks and luring more business travelers. "If we tried to rebrand [completely], we would be missing an opportunity and creating internal turmoil," she said. "Our brand is positive, and we want to expand that."