In a world where advertisers aren't always popular, Cincinnati
is showing its practitioners the love through tax incentives,
incubators, accelerators and venture capital. And while its claims
to global marketing predominance beyond Procter & Gamble
Co. may not be well known, the Cincinnati USA Partnership
led by the local Chamber of Commerce aims to change that , with a
just-launched Brandhub advertising and PR campaign.
The cornerstone of the pitch: Cincinnati is home to the
country's largest consumer-products marketer (P&G); largest
supermarket retailer (Kroger Co.); and biggest
department-store chain (Macy's ).
That's spawned an infrastructure heavy with designers, brand
consultants, market researchers and data-analytics firms. With
nearly 39,000 branding-related jobs in the city and 60,000 in the
region, Cincinnati boasts the highest per-capita concentration of
branding professionals in the world, growing 16% from 2002 to 2010,
four times the rate in the top 25 U.S. metro areas overall,
according to the University of Cincinnati.
"I challenge you to find anywhere on the globe with the
combination of consumer understanding that exists within two long
golf drives of wherever you're sitting in Cincinnati," said Jeff
Weedman, P&G's VP-global business development, who is now on
loan to head Cintrifuse, part of the effort to lure marketers and
shops to the region.
The city is one of the few, if any, dangling incentives to lure
or keep marketing shops. When Dunnhumby USA (a joint venture of The
Kroger Co. and London-based analytics shop Dunnhumby that serves
clients such as Macy's ) wanted to expand this year, the city and
state gave up to $25 million in tax incentives for the $36 million
project, now expected to house 1,200 employees. Nielsen and
Arkansas-based digital shop Rockfish also got incentives to move
operations to the city in recent years.
The private sector is also chipping in: Mr. Weedman said P&G
recently ponied up $25 million and office space to house
Cintrifuse, an incubator with a total of $60 million in funding
aimed at attracting more venture capital to the city.
One of Cintrifuse's first tenants is former Pampers Brand
Manager Rodney Williams, who got three social-media-related patents
at P&G before launching Lisnr, a mobile music app that makes
Cintrifuse arose from a group of the city's CEOs in a project
co-chaired by P&G Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald and mapped out by
McKinsey & Co. Besides attracting venture capital, it looks to
become the central hub for startup information in Cincinnati and
form a network of incubators and accelerators focused on brand
marketing in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood, where one, the
Brandery, is already located.
Dave Knox, a former P&G brand manager and now CMO of
Rockfish, said that while startups, incubators and accelerators
abound nationally, what Cincinnati brings is a proximity to brand
marketers who can fund experiments and an abundance of agencies
willing to help for free. Shops such as Rockfish, Possible,
Proximity Barefoot BBDO,
Resource, Empower, LPK, Landor and
often compete, but they've all provided mentors and pro-bono work
for Brandery startups. So has P&G -- VP North American
Operations and Marketing
Jodi Allen and former digital chief Lucas Watson have been among
In its third year, the Brandery's class included a venture
aiming to be the Buddy Media of Pinterest (and backed by former
P&G and Possible
Worldwide executive Bob Gilbreath) and another headed by
three teen MIT dropouts to let outbound air passengers rent their
cars to inbound travelers.
But as P&G restructuring swells the available pool of
thousands of marketing-trained alums in the area, it's easy to
picture more of them sticking closer to their knitting. And where
better to do so? Rich Kiley, a local VC who once headed P&G's
venture fund, recounts how when local ice-cream icon Graeter's
needed to raise funds in 2009, its advisers included former P&G
Chairman-CEO John Pepper and Vice Chairman Susan Arnold . Kroger
pledged to buy and sell all that Graeter's could make. Now, Mr.
Weedman said the retailer has agreed to fast-track store tests for
other local entrepreneurs.
~ ~ ~
CORRECTION: An earlier
version of this story incorrectly listed the last name of Rodney
Williams as Murphy and his music app Lisnr was misspelled as