Minneapolis looks to brand itself to draw more visitors

MINNEAPOLIS: Minneapolis is looking to create an image that will attract more convention business, along with more business and leisure travelers.

MINNEAPOLIS: Minneapolis is looking to create an image that will attract more convention business, along with more business and leisure travelers.

The Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association has hired FutureBrand to conduct a brand audit on how it is viewed locally, regionally, and nationally.

It has hired Dennis McGrath, a partner in McGrath Buckley Communications in St. Paul, to oversee the branding work and speak with locals about their views on the city. McGrath is a former board member of the association.

Having a non-staffer oversee the effort will prevent staff preconceptions about the city from creeping into the results, Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the association, said.

The FutureBrand study is part of a three-year effort to raise Minneapolis' profile for travelers.

Convention business has held steady since 9/11, but other business travel - such as for smaller meetings - to the city is down 10%-12%. The association has never before looked at how people see the city as a destination for business or leisure travel.

Minneapolis most often competes with Midwestern cities from Indianapolis in the East to Denver in the West for convention business, Ortale said.

But "after 9/11, given the downward trend for meetings, we could be competing with anyone from San Francisco to New York."

The association had hoped to begin its branding efforts last year, but put plans on hold after 9/11. The budget for the effort was also cut.

The FutureBrand study and other initial research are being budgeted at $250,000. How much funding will be available to act on the study is still an open question. Ortale hopes to have the study results by November.

"My predictions are that our perceptions are vastly different from those of people on the outside," he said.

The association plans to make results of the study available to local businesses and others who want it, hoping they can use the data to craft their own messages for staff recruitment and other purposes.

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