Annual brand confusion reins

CBJ Editorial 

It’s the time of year for those annual meetings of economic development organizations in the Corridor, where members network and receive an update on the progress of the past year.

One of the oddities worth noting at the annual meetings this year is that the way these economic development leaders refer to our region has conspicuously changed. It is no longer “the Corridor.” They now refer to our region consistently as “ICR.”

The name ICR arose in 2017 with the formation of ICR Iowa, the regional organization created for “community-aligned business attraction and workforce development.” It was also tasked with building our regional brand. Rather than tweaking Iowa’s Creative Corridor brand, it audaciously decided to rebrand the entire region as ICR.

At the recent Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance annual meeting, with an estimated 1,000 attendees, the only time a speaker used the word Corridor was – tellingly – when Duane Smith, executive chairman of TrueNorth Companies, accepted the Howard Hall Excellence in Business Award.

It appears that our economic development leaders have changed their everyday nomenclature for the region in order to support the fledgling ICR Iowa joint venture. Even the annual Corridor Day at the Capitol has been replaced with ICR Day at the Capitol.

One of the problems with this regional brand change and the usage by economic development officials is that it doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground in the Corridor, especially within the private sector. Have local and regional media outlets, the Eastern Iowa Airport or Think Iowa City changed how they refer to the region? No.

Most importantly, have any private companies started utilizing ICR in their names? We haven’t found one. In contrast, there are dozens of private businesses with Corridor in their name. New ones have even been formed within the past year.

The Corridor regional brand, while imperfect, is accepted throughout the region.

When we already struggle to work together as a region in numerous ways, why do economic development officials continue to thrust forward another divisive and confusing impediment to regional identity, understanding and cooperation?

The last we heard about the regional branding strategy was in 2018. At that time, the ICR Iowa name was to be used for external branding purposes and it was said that the Corridor brand would still be used within the region.

The ICR Iowa regional brand is failing to gain any traction after nearly two years. Its use causes more confusion than regional unity. That’s what happens when a regional brand is created over the course of a few days rather than through a comprehensive and strategic process. •