I definitely didn’t join Visit Oakland’s board of directors at a boring time, either for the organization (formerly known as the Oakland Visitor and Convention Bureau) or for the city itself.

From the first meeting I attended last September, I found myself in the middle of a series of passionate discussions about Oakland’s new corporate identity, which would ultimately drive the development of a new logo, website, advertising campaign and all collateral materials.

The Bureau’s board members represent hotels, restaurants, the airport and popular attractions like Fairyland and the Zoo. We’re all major Oakland boosters, and we’re not shy about speaking up and asking: How can we appeal to hipsters as well as business travelers? To artists as well as sports enthusiasts? To families and foodies? Should we ignore the city across the bay, or exploit it to our advantage? How can we effectively convey what all of us love most about our city: its diversity, landscape, creativity, and authenticity?

Oakland is clearly more than a tagline, but can a tagline help tell our story? What about a logo—the city uses an oak tree, but what else might convey the excitement and pride we feel for Oakland?

It was not a simple process, and I’m sure we caused the extremely able Visit Oakland staff to pull out their hair. But they kept us on track, inspired us with the work of the nationally renowned (and Oakland-based) Carol H. Williams Agency, and then used their smarts to synthesize all of the input.

And boy, was it worth it! Last week, at a morning event at the Paramount Theater, over 500 civic and community leaders got to see the results: the unveiling of a new brand identity, website and advertising campaign. It was the beginning of a new era for what is known as “destination development” in Oakland—with the goal of attracting more visitors to our “sunny side of the Bay.”

Visit Oakland’s small-but-mighty staff of nine is led by President/CEO Alison Best, whose 18 months at the helm have been nothing less than game-changing. Best, who previously worked at visitors’ bureaus in Vancouver, Whistler and Santa Monica, has created a new strategic plan, a new team and a new office in Jack London Square that tourists can access.

Best’s objective in creating a strong Oakland brand is clear: to have city, community and business leaders be the city’s ambassadors, speaking with a united voice and consistent message. If they succeed, Oakland will attract more visitors, which translates into more revenue to the city.

Onstage at the Paramount, Best presented a casual but very strategic discussion among members of her team that focused on how a hypothetical meeting planner and two fictional 20-something cousins came to learn about the joys of Oakland through the efforts of Visit Oakland, through in-flight magazines, international newspapers, association publications, billboards, transit buys and trade shows. Then she demonstrated additional “touchpoints” that supported them further in a number of more personalized and interactive ways (website, social media, phone, customized tours) designed to close the deal.

“If we get you here, we will convert you,” is Visit Oakland’s unofficial mantra. One staffer told about giving a 2-1/2 hour tour of Oakland to an international travel reporter who lives in L.A., who afterward said, “Maybe I could move here…”

The team presented the new logo, which features a friendly, hand-drawn font, three circles of color and a background image of “our” new Bay Bridge segment. They also showed sample ads with the tagline “Discover the side of Oakland you don’t know.” The ads feature dynamic photos and witty word play: The two halves of “Wet and Wild” depict stand-up paddle boarders in the estuary and hikers in Roberts Park. Another ad is called “Movers and Shakers”: the movers are represented by business professionals in an office with a great view, the shakers by a photo of a lively nightspot with bartenders making cocktails. A video featuring civic and business leaders underscores the value of working together to tell Oakland’s story.

The whole presentation had a “wow” factor that we don’t see often enough in Oakland. Visit Oakland clearly understands the challenges represented by both the reality and the perception of crime in Oakland, but that is not going to slow us down. We’re committed to increasing tourism’s economic impact to Oakland through destination development and brand management. We want people at home and elsewhere to know that Oakland is a world-class destination.

We board members have known for years that our city is more than its sports teams and airport. Now, with the leadership of Visit Oakland’s passionate staff, the rest of the world is going to know it, too.

4 Responses

  1. Mojojo81

    OaklandLOCAL should add something more in its normal style and suggest that “ONLY existing residents know the needs of Oakland” … or something trite alone the lines of “gentrifies stay away especially if you are non-african”. You know the usual Oakland Local crap.

  2. Tim

    “One staffer told about giving a 2-1/2 hour tour of Oakland to an international travel reporter who lives in L.A., who afterward said, “Maybe I could move here…”

    You’ll get in trouble with OL with talk like that

  3. OaklandNative

    They should show off Oakland’s history. The new stuff was added to enhance our Oakland–with our approval.

  4. Matt in Uptown

    Perhaps there’s hope for OL, The East Oakland pieces are pretty nice, too.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.