Visitors Bureau debuts new branding for ‘PHL’

L.A. equals Hollywood; New York equals Wall Street; San Francisco equals high-tech.

Jack Ferguson, president of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, was running into a slight problem.

“When you ask somebody, ‘Tell me what you think about Philadelphia,’ they look at the icons — the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin, the cheesesteak, the pretzel, Rocky,” Ferguson said. “And then they kind of stop.”

Ferguson’s organization is now leading up an effort to change that.

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Rebranding PHL

Wednesday morning, the Convention & Visitors Bureau will roll out new branding for the city of Philadelphia. The group’s global messaging project is being billed as “open source narrative” — Philly-specific messaging that other city boosters can adopt (and adapt) at will.

“We just want to make sure we’re all singing the same song, so the message gets out globally about what [Philadelphia is] all about,” Ferguson said.

The Visitors Bureau, in partnership with Philadelphia-based design firm ex;it, interviewed more than 200 people, seeking input on defining Philadelphia’s “global message.”

The results are in, and two things stand out.

1. “PHL” is the ubiquitous shorthand.

2. PHL is the “Modern Renaissance City.”

“Philadelphia is freedom, Philadelphia is democracy, Philadelphia is America,” said Ferguson, explaining the first of six narrative pillars on which the new brand is built.

Here they are in list form:

Freedom, democracy + America
Innovation + education
Creative spirit
Outdoor life + sports
Vibrant street life
Accessible + friendly

Ferguson says the Visitors Bureau — new acronym: PHLCVB — will use the six narratives to attract meetings, conventions and international visitors.

With the goal of getting other organizations to use them in their economic development efforts, PHLCVB is making its branding material available online at

The ultimate goal: better positioning Philadelphia as a global destination.

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