Logo, slogan in the works for O.C.
New marketing push by tourism leaders would create special moniker for county and maybe even rename John Wayne Airport.
BY JEFF OVERLEY
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Local business and tourism leaders are embarking on a major marketing effort to cash in on the pop-culture phenomenon that is Orange County, developing a slogan, a logo and even pondering a name change for John Wayne Airport.
Executives from numerous visitor bureaus and top-flight attractions such as Disneyland and South Coast Plaza have been working for months on the strategy, resurrected from the ashes of a previous effort abandoned for financial reasons.
The goal is to lure throngs of travelers whose vacation spending translates to booming business for private companies and extra sales and hotel taxes for cities, helping pay for everything from firefighting to street paving to park improvements.
Despite heavy advertising by major destinations such as Disneyland, and the popularity of Newport Beach as a television-show setting, officials feel the Orange County brand is underexploited.
"Research … confirmed that generally there is a lack of knowledge among visitors about the full offerings of Orange County," said James Bermingham, who sits on the board of Anaheim's visitors bureau and is managing director of the Montage Laguna Beach resort.
The concept's first phase involved crafting a cohesive message that visitor bureaus will use to describe Orange County and its hot spots to prospective visitors.
"I think it's the first time all the cities have gotten together and said, 'OK, we're going to be organized and unified in the message we deliver,'" said Gary Sherwin, president and chief executive of Newport's visitors bureau.
In the effort's second phase, officials are finalizing a logo and slogan – they could be ready in a few weeks – that would be used in marketing literature and potentially on gateway signs at major thoroughfare entrances to the county. (Separately, Buena Park officials have finalized a design for a gateway sign along the 5 freeway at the county border with Los Angeles.)
Joel Zlotnik, spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority, said officials have been approached about the gateway signs concept but that no formal plans exist.
Also being floated – but certainly a long-term idea – is a name change that would add "Orange County" to the name of John Wayne Airport.
Supervisor Chris Norby, who along with fellow supervisors has been briefed on the branding effort, said a fusion of place and name is possible. San Jose's airport, he noted, is known as the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.
A similar branding effort was launched when Fox's "The OC" made the region a household name. Officials agreed on marketing principles, but once the time came to pay for an advertising blitz, "everyone headed for the door and everything kind of fell apart," Sherwin said.
This time, the effort involves very little, if any, special advertising, and is less costly - officials have spent $20,000 so far on the logo and slogan, Sherwin said.
Instead of burning through cash, the "OC Branding Initiative" simply seeks to hype the county in a common way. Marketing crews will spotlight the whole gamut of shopping and recreational attractions with an eye toward encouraging visitors to stay in Orange County during visits to Southern California, instead of venturing to neighboring counties.
"By tying North County, Central County and South County together, all of a sudden you have a very strong message and you can compete with San Diego and Los Angeles," said Mark Feary, executive director of the Orange County Tourism Council.
Norby said that no Orange County town, no matter its beaches or theme parks, stands alone, making a regional marketing effort attractive.
"There is no one dominant city in Orange County," Norby said. "It's more of a countywide identity that many cities share, and so I think that anything the tourist council does to create a uniform brand and a graphic for the county would be helpful."
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