ASHLAND -- Since 2017, three large stainless steel “A’s” have welcomed residents and visitors alike to Ashland. One is positioned at the intersection of U.S. 250 and U.S. 42, another at the intersection of Ohio 60 and Ohio 511 and the third located along U.S. 42 near the WNCO radio station.
The landmarks feature the city’s logo that was adopted in 2014, crafted from stainless steel and mounted on a concrete foundation with “Ashland” on the foundation. They were the final piece of the 2015 Ashland Bicentennial Celebration.
Now, more than two years later, the city government is drawing inspiration from nearby Mount Vernon’s historic downtown and portions of Easton, Ohio, to even further distinguish Ashland.
Earlier this week, Mayor Matt Miller announced plans to replace the city’s street signage with new, larger ones that match the city’s brand.
In downtown Ashland, the signage already adorns the corner of Claremont and Main Streets and soon, this will be the case for all of the downtown and as time and resources allow, all of Ashland.
“If you’re truly going to develop an identity, you have to use (your brand) everywhere you can,” Miller said. “And I do think here in Ashland, it’s catching on.”
He believes the new signage will give the city a more “organized look” and make it “look like you truly are someplace special.”
“Over the past two years, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to clean up and polish our downtown, and one of the things we talked about was cleaning up the signage and making it distinct,” Miller said.
The new signs feature a navy blue background with a white reflective border and Corisande (regular) font -- the same font used for the city’s stationary and business cards.
They are larger than the former downtown Ashland street signage, which Miller hopes will make them more readable, especially at night.
The city’s community outreach coordinator Amanda Patterson put together options for the street signs, and then presented them to dozens of people before the final design was chosen, Miller said.
In the future, the city’s logo might be more prevalent, too.
“We’ve committed to using this logo everywhere we can in the city,” Miller said.
It’s already incorporated in the Ashland City Police’s most recently updated badge, and will eventually be placed on all city vehicles.
“It’s beginning to catch on so much, that when people see it for events (promotions), they think it’s an official city endorsed event,” Miller said.
A fourth and final stainless steel “A” could be built in the center of a possible roundabout that would reconfigure the intersection of Cottage Street, Faultless Drive and U.S. 250.
How other communities have distinguished themselves
How Marion aims to make itself stand out
In Marion, Ohio, the community foundation took initiative to change the conversation around the city.
Dean Jacob, president and CEO of the Marion Community Foundation, had grown tired of hearing the same negative stories about Rust Belt cities like Marion and knew his community had positive news to share.
“This was a time where things were starting to take a turn for the better, not only in Marion, but all over the place. The communities known as Rust Belt communities were tired of feeling like woe is us,” Jacob said in a Richland Source interview earlier this year.
To accelerate the transition in 2017, the Marion Community Foundation launched a campaign called “MarionMade.” which highlights the community’s past, but stays focused on the “present and future of the lively remarkable community.” The campaign’s website promotes the city’s people, products, places, programs and projects with frequent stories.
“I think people were hungry for it,” Jacob said. “We reached out and did presentations, and people loved it. It seemed to automatically click.”
“MarionMade," is now housed within the Marion Technical College.
What didn’t work in Fargo, North Dakota
The average annual temperature in Fargo, North Dakota is 42.2 degrees Fahrenheit. In winter months, the cold sinks in further with average highs reaching only 18 degrees in January and 24 degrees in February. Average lows are 0 and 6 degrees respectively.
Clearly it's cold. But for years, the city’s slogan was “Always Warm.” It was meant to be a reflection of residents’ “warm personalities,” not the frigid temperatures that often cut autumn short and linger into spring.
Still, imagine the potential rage of even one uninformed snowbird who might have relocated to Fargo for warmer temperatures. The slogan wasn’t meant to misinform people, but it did.
“In Fargo, it looked like they were trying to convince people that it wasn’t so cold, but it is cold,” said Will Ketchum, president of North Star Destination Strategies, an agency that has provided “place branding” for cities, counties, downtowns and other regions for about 19 years.
When working with Fargo about five years ago, North Star Destination Strategies decided to highlight the city’s free-spirited and quirky residents and wouldn’t shy away from the city’s cold temperatures.
The slogan for Fargo became “North of Normal.” Residents embraced this, and festivals like an annual Frostival have brought this to life.
A Wee Bit of Irish Attitude in Ohio
Scott Dring, director of Visit Dublin (Ohio) found that visitors and residents alike from embraced the city’s wee bit of connection to Ireland’s capital.
“What we found was most people equated Dublin with Ireland, so we went all in with what the research showed us because it was a differentiating point for us,” Dring said. “The slogan was ‘Irish is an Attitude,’ and the community locally went a little crazy. They adopted it and loved it.”
Restaurants added Irish-themed items to their menus. The city painted its fire hydrants green and an Irish entertainment series and large festival were planned.
It gave the city an identity, one more valuable than the city’s longtime selling point: “We’re near Columbus.”
Read more about these other cities' initiatives to distinguish themselves in this Solutions Journalism story, published by Richland Source in May 2019.
This article was edited Friday, Oct. 18 to reflect that "MarionMade" is now housed within the Marion Technical College. It was moved from the Foundation to the college's direction earlier this year.