MANSFIELD — Jodie Perry believes the new branding campaign for Mansfield and all of Richland County sends a powerful external message that this is a community on the rise.
The internal message to local residents found in the campaign may be equally important.
“I think the vast majority of the citizens here are really actually excited about the new energy, the revitalization taking place,” Perry said Thursday.
“It’s almost like we needed permission to be excited about that.
“My hope is that the brand story and the brand and the ads and all the things that we’re gonna do with it gives them that … they can say, this is the community that we’ve always known was here,” Perry said.
Perry, the president and CEO of Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development, and Lee Tasseff, president of Destination Mansfield-Richland County, sat down with Richland Source to go over details of the branding effort.
The campaign can be used in a variety of ways, including attracting visitors to Richland County, in attracting and retaining business and industry and also in workforce development.
It’s an effort that began in 2019, the ideas of which can be initially found in the Mansfield Rising downtown investment plan, a citizen-led effort that has been the blueprint for local improvements since its inception.
One of the initial goals in the Mansfield Rising document was a simple action plan: Create a brand for downtown Mansfield “to weave a powerful and positive story to raise awareness about why this is a great place to live and conduct business.”
As organizers began work on the plan, it became clear the branding campaign needed to encompass far more than just downtown Mansfield. It became a true countywide effort, including all cities and villages and rural locations.
The goal was to produce a brand that reflects the entire county and allow it to speak with one voice.
The $100,000 effort gained financial support from the Richland County Foundation, Destination Mansfield-Richland County, Richland Area Chamber & RCDG, City of Mansfield, Mechanics Bank, OhioHealth, Park National Bank, Richland County Commissioners, and Richland Source.
Organizers selected Cubic Creative, an Oklahoma-based company, to assist with the development in fall of 2019.
A full “immersion” with that company into the local community was planned in the spring of 2020, but it was delayed by the impact of COVID-19.
That effort resumed in July 2021 with a week-long visit by company officials to learn about and connect with all areas of the county, from Bellville/Butler to Plymouth/Shiloh.
“We went all in on research,” Perry said. “We had a much higher response rate to our (community) survey than the company has seen elsewhere. They said that was by far, and they have worked in larger communities, that was the No. 1.
“We maximized getting as many people as possible to those focus groups. We did those pop up branding sessions that I think actually, quite frankly, they were a little afraid of at first.
“But we insisted on it because of our (successful) experience with Mansfield Rising. It was like public involvement and public feedback do not have to be boring,” Perry said.
Leaders of the project, including Kristi Lord of Mechanics Bank, Cody Albert from OhioHealth and Maura Teynor from Richland County Foundation, loved what the branding company delivered.
“They didn’t just listen (to local residents), they actually absorbed it,” Tasseff said. ‘The payoff for us was they took everything to heart. They didn’t just mail it in. They really did it.”
The campaign does have a logo, a “spark” with nine “long” measures to represent the nine cities and villages found in Richland County, also representing the “creator” archetype.
“We felt that really spoke to our strong past of entrepreneurship, ingenuity, hardwork … as well as what’s happening now in this kind of revitalization moment.”
The logo, flexible enough to be used in many different settings and in all nine communities, includes key elements like “community” and a script “Ohio” that will play well outside the Buckeye state.
“The script Ohio, of course, there’s a lot of brand equity in that. Just recognizability and for us in economic development, that is important, because there’s other Mansfields and Richland Counties,” she said.
The brand storytelling is perhaps even more important than the logo, according to Perry and Tasseff.
“The brand story that they really talked about with us is that Richland County is a story in the making and is yours to transform. From my perspective, one of the things they really caught was how we very much are a community that’s in the midst of revitalization,” Perry said.
“We’ve come a long ways and there’s been a lot of good things, but we’re still very much iterating and their whole prompt on that was ‘you.’
“That’s what you should pitch to people — that you can come here and be a part of that revitalization. I think that does appeal to a lot of people that want a seat at the table to give back in their community.
“We’ve known that organically, I guess, or anecdotally, but it was very interesting that they came back with that after talking, not just to us, but we had about 60 people go through focus groups, hundreds of people go through those pop-ups,” Perry said.
Live like a local. Community roots. From the fields. Fabric of opportunity. Out-er space. Space for (fill in the blank). Space to (fill in the blank).
Tasseff used the brand storytelling throughout the new guide, including “biographical” sketches of four local residents with a variety of backgrounds.
“We start looking cohesive all the way through. The brand story when you read it, it hits in the same way. It’s a video script. So that’s part of the creativity that’s coming through this stuff.
“Take that, put the images to it. And now you’ve set the community up in a very positive way in a multitude of niches and facets that makes us all look good,” Tasseff said.
Perry said part of the brand story that will be rolled out is the opportunities offered to residents in Richland County.
“You can have a full life here in Richland County. So especially when you think if they were coming from a larger metro area, you’re not spending a lot of time commuting here, you can be home with your family right after work.
“A fascinating insight that the creative director made was ‘You are a community of ‘ands.’ We were like, ‘What does that mean?’ and he said, ‘I met so many people here who do multiple things.'”
Farmer/architect Matthew Stanfield. Publisher/cyclist Jay Allred. Mayor/pastor Steven Schag. Just some of the examples.
“Then you can connect that to (Louis) Bromfield, right?” Tasseff said. “Author/farmer/conservationist. It’s like it’s in our DNA to be that.
“We actually wanna do something with that. So we’ll see,” Perry said. “That idea of you can live fully here. That was where the ‘Space to …’ came from.”
Tasseff and Perry said the branding effort is just now getting started.
It’s a project that will include an open-source branding website, similar to brandcolumbus.com; more creative “collateral” work with partners and local governments to incorporate the brand into their own materials; and launch of local marketing efforts.
But both pointed to a section of the brand storytelling found on Page 2 of the visitor guide as an example of the message found in the campaign:
“We act upon the need for innovation, invention and reinterpretation. We are outspoken and achievement-driven, dedicated and hardworking, with a strong belief in the value of inner expression, quiet contemplation and the soul-inspiring replenishment of the great outdoors.
“Today, we are all creators, sharing a collective vision, deeply rooted in the success of our past.
“Generation after generation, forging imagination and prosperity.”
“We are building momentum, led by the dreamers of now.”
“We are a story in the making and yours to transform.
“Come, make it in Mansfield. Welcome home.”