Thursday, December 26, 2002

Past meets future in creating image

Landor Associates: Selling Pittsburgh as more than just Steel Town

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

Phil Duncan, managing director of Landor Associates, stands in his office downtown.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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At Landor Associates on Shillito Place, reminders of the historic department store that once occupied the downtown building have been retained, woven into the new professional scheme.

A second-floor meeting room, the "Beauty Salon," keeps interruptions down with a "Perm in Progress" sign posted at the door.

Around the corner, lunch can be had in the "Tea Room," fashioned in the style of the old Shillito's cafe with booth seating and galley-style kitchen.

"We pay homage to the building," managing director Phil Duncan said.

Paying homage is something Landor hopes to replicate in its work for The Image Gap, a coalition of 15 economic development groups looking to establish a more appealing image for the city of Pittsburgh. The Image Gap's goal is to stimulate economic growth in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.

Landor's challenge is to overhaul the image of a city where mighty steel was once king. The key is retaining that heritage while moving past the "Rust Belt" connotations.

Landor and its affiliate public relations/advertising agency, Burson-Marsteller in Pittsburgh, were chosen for the job over more than 205 applicants.

"They told us we had to be conscious of our heritage - that's one of the things that attracted us to them," Image Gap spokesman Bill Flanigan said.

Mr. Flanigan said Pittsburgh has struggled with how to fit its past into an image ripe for economic growth. He said the area's marketing system has been too fragmented, which makes it impossible to communicate a strong message. The Image Gap wants Landor to create a core message with visual images of what Pittsburgh represents.

"People from outside the region who've never experienced Pittsburgh still think of the outdated image - the steel city with smoky skies," Mr. Flanigan said. "That gets in the way of recruiting both jobs and businesses. But the folks at Landor and Burson are saying you can't ignore that - that's part of who you are."

Steel mills, undoubtedly, are still a part of Pittsburgh.

"We still have steel mills, but they're high tech, state-of-the-art facilities, and the skies are clean," Mr. Flanigan said. "But we have other big business. H.J. Heinz Co.'s headquarters are here. Alcoa Corp., the world's largest aluminum company, is here. And PNC Financial Corp. is here. Pittsburgh is now one of the largest financial centers in the world."

Landor Associates is a world leader and innovator in brand strategy and design consulting. The San Francisco-based company has more than 20 offices in 16 countries. The Cincinnati office has 85 employees.

German designer Walter Landor, now deceased, founded the company in 1941. A pioneer in the field of branding, he coined the industry phrase "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind."

Words like "heritage" and "ownership" are an integral part of the company's design solutions and evident in its practices.

When Landor designed its Cincinnati office in 1999, for example, it made sure to preserve the retail heritage of the building's former tenant, Cincinnati retail icon Shillito's.

"In the absence of defining who you are, people will define it for you," Mr. Duncan of Landor said. "We can help a region identify their strengths - help them tap into what they can own."

In Pittsburgh, Landor will work with its affiliate advertising agency and an opinion research firm from Virginia to develop a new city image to coincide with the opening early next year of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Deborah Knudsen, president and CEO of the Traverse City, Mich., Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Landor was a perfect choice to project a new image for her city.

"We couldn't put our arms around it and put it in the right package," she said of promoting the region.

"We don't have the luxury of research dollars. They gave us the same service that they would to a Federal Express or a General Electric. Now we have a look that people recognize us for."

Traverse City's new image centers on Lake Michigan - Grand Traverse Bay - and this destination marketing has been a large part of the region's economic success the past few years, Ms. Knudsen said.

Some of Landor's other clients: FedEx, The New York Stock Exchange, Microsoft, BP, Delta Air Lines, France Telecom, Pfizer, Ford, Frito-Lay, Bradesco Bank, Procter & Gamble Co., and the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Nagano and Salt Lake City.

Claudia Kotchka, vice president of design information and strategy for Procter & Gamble, said Landor has worked on brand identity for the consumer goods giant, including the Tide brand.

"They really take what you want a brand to stand for and bring it to life," she said. Inherent in this is the concept of "brand architecture" - how the brand communicates its various offerings.

Landor has helped P&G connect NASCAR with the Tide brand.

"Tide is a powerful cleaning agent," Mr. Duncan of Landor said. "NASCAR racing is the largest spectator sport - bold, loud, big and brassy."

Simply put, Ms. Kotchka said, Landor helps P&G "communicate with our customers."

What all of this will mean for Pittsburgh is that the city will project an image for the future, but not forget the past.

City leaders want to create awareness that there is opportunity in Pittsburgh. And through that awareness, retain more local talent, boost tourism and improve business development.

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