In the advertising business, we all rack our brains to come up with the big idea. It’s the ticket to success.
Not to be confused with a creative execution that generates “likes” on social media, which—heck, yeah—isn’t a bad thing.
No, the big idea is bigger.
It’s not the execution itself; it’s the thinking that drives the execution. Contrary to the popular notion, the big idea is not grandiose or impractical. Rather, it’s usually a simple idea that has significant impact.
To be sure, the big idea is not the sole domain of the ad world. If it were, we wouldn’t have heart catheterization, the Internet, or unmanned spacecraft.
Close to home, let’s look at some uniquely Cleveland big ideas.
The Geis Companies E. 9th Street corridor project
The project encompasses four buildings of an entire block along E. 9th, wrapping around the corner of Euclid Avenue: The newly unveiled eight-story Cuyahoga County Administrative Headquarters building, the renovated Marcel Breuer Ameritrust Tower transformation into the Marriott Metropolitan Hotel and The 9 luxury apartment complex, the landmark Cleveland Trust rotunda to house upscale grocer Heinen’s first downtown store, and the interconnected Swetland Building at 1010 Euclid.
The stated intention of the Geis project, especially a project of this scale and scope, is to transform an urban district in decline.
To do so, the Geis concept goes beyond redevelopment of vacant landmark buildings—and the usual hype of blending commercial, retail, and residential space.
The Geis development team understood that upscale properties with upscale amenities aren’t solely dependent on upscale people. A broader community base is required to make such a project work.
That’s where Geis planners had a big idea: Bring a pivotal demographic on-site.
People are needed to work in the Marriott hotel. People to provide services for concierge living for residents of The 9 tower. People to staff the Heinen’s store.
To that end, they’re including apartments that will offer subsidized rents to attract residents who, in turn, will provide the manpower for the hotel, the apartments, and the grocery complex.
Housing for workers on site instills a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and a more convenient lifestyle for workers. They can avoid the time and cost of commuting. Their workplace is connected to their home.
And it infuses cultural and economic diversity into the district. That’s a big idea.
It’s self-serving to be sure. But the sheer fact of including a more diverse target audience in the planning is unique. It’s forward-thinking, not just to project completion but also to project sustainability: an organic approach to project development.
If all goes as planned and the concept succeeds, it’s a potential first for the city.
The Positively Cleveland rebranding campaign
The Positively Cleveland group has launched a campaign to attract Millennials to experience Cleveland and all it has to offer, as a destination to visit as well as a career/lifestyle choice.
They conducted research to determine direction. Then commissioned an edgy campaign that expresses the true character of Cleveland and Clevelanders.
The launch relies on social media to perk the conversation. It’s part of a larger multimedia communications platform and a broad-based community-engagement effort aimed at changing attitudes and reshaping lingering impressions of our city as “the mistake on the lake” and “the burning river”.
The big idea: Engage locals. Get residents involved. Tap the mindset of the faithful of all ages. Define who we really are. Ultimately, present a composite personality that sets us apart. To attract the non-us.
As you would expect from a travel and tourism group, the campaign consists of an external component, the outreach to out-of-town Millennials. It also includes an internal push to energize the Cleveland base.
All designed to get Clevelanders talking about themselves. To get Clevelanders talking to each other. To give Clevelanders an open mike to share the love.
In short, defining our character by showcasing our characters.
The Scranton Peninsula trail
On December 12, 1974, President Gerald Ford signed the bill that released the funding to establish what would become the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area along the Cuyahoga River and the historic Ohio & Erie Canal.
Constructed by manual labor in the 1820s and made obsolete in 1861 by the expansion of the railroads, the 308-mile canal linked Lake Erie to the Ohio River, establishing a commerce route that ultimately linked New York City on the Hudson River to New Orleans on the Mississippi.
Winding through that vast tract, the engine that made the canal run was the canal towpath, where mules towed the canal boats delivering goods and materials from Cleveland to Portsmouth.
Then in 2000, the classification was upgraded from National Recreation Area and officially designated the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, making it eligible for increased funding and improvement.
In the ensuing years, the U.S. Park Service acquired land from private owners until they had created a continuous 33,000-acre tract through the Cuyahoga Valley. Along the way, the park service made infrastructure improvements, opened museums and visitor centers, and constructed trailside historical exhibits.
The principal attraction? The restored historic canal towpath, an uninterrupted 110-mile hard-packed trail that runs beyond the park from Cleveland-Akron to New Philadelphia.
More than any other amenity the park has to offer, the towpath is why the Cuyahoga National Park is the sixth most visited in the United States.
The big idea? Actually, two. First, of course, the preservation of a vast natural space within an urban area, offering access from surrounding communities without traveling a great distance.
Second, easy access for local residents without the use of a vehicle. Creating a system of feeder trails connecting neighboring communities through connected green space areas effectively brings the park to the people. And more of them.
The recent dedication of the one-mile Scranton Flats towpath park and trail along the Scranton Road peninsula, a multimillion-dollar project completed by multiple area partners, further extends that vision of access to the inner city, transforming a barren wasteland into an urban oasis.
Yes, God is in the details. But it’s the bigness of the idea that has real impact. And can change the path of progress.