Meet Ottumwa reception

Meet Ottumwa Executive Director Andy Wartenberg discusses the organization's rebranding efforts during a reception Thursday evening at Bridge View Center.

OTTUMWA — Andy Wartenberg wants you to Meet Ottumwa.

The executive director of the organization, formerly the Ottumwa Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, discussed the reasons for the rebranding Thursday evening at Bridge View Center.

“We want to have a reflection of where we’re going,” he said when discussing the reasons behind the change. “We have a lot of things that we’ve accomplished a lot [with the previous rebranding], even in the last five years, and we felt that branding reflected were we were.”

He also attributed the change to pent-up demand. The organization has had to rethink its marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We very aggressively started marketing to the groups, and by groups I mean meetings, conventions, sporting events, weddings, family reunions, things like that,” Wartenberg said. “We are getting a lot of requests right now. We want to capitalize on the demand with vaccines out there. Bridge View Center and all our other venues here have really mastered how to do a safe meeting and address those concerns.”

He also talked about what Ottumwa can offer to groups looking to hold a conference or event in Ottumwa. “What we are and what’s going to fill up our hotels, what is going to put people in our restaurants, in our stores, what’s going to fill up the Bridge View Center are groups. We need to recognize exactly what we are,” Wartenberg said.

“Most important, a lot of people, when they rebrand, they make the mistake of focusing only on what they’ve got and not what people want,” he said. “In discussions with our meeting planners and with my colleagues here in the community, we came to the realization when we compete for groups, a lot of times we’re competing against the big guys, the Des Moines, the Quad City, the Iowa City’s, the Dubuques.”

He said that while some groups want that “kind of sterile thing,” there’s others that want “a more interesting and different experience.

“As you talk to every one of them, other than the facilities, what’s most important to them? Food,” Wartenberg said. “We are a population of 25,000 people with over 50 countries represented. Why not emphasize that? Our diversity does make us a unique gathering place.”

In looking at branding efforts from other similar organizations, what stood out was the call to action. For example, many have words such as discover, visit and explore in their names.

That combination of focus led to Meet Ottumwa with the tagline “Where Iowa meet the world.” New logos focus on a clean, simple and elegant design.

Once that was done, that’s when the real work began for Wartenberg and Laura Carrell, Meet Ottumwa executive assistant.

Changes had to be made to the website, one sheets and other guides, emails, and social media.

“It’s a lot of work,” Wartenberg said. “I’m happy to say that the electronic or digital portion, we’re just about finished with. Our last step will be some of the physical things like our signage, things like that.

“I’m happy to say that we were able to accomplish this rebranding for under $3,000. Hopefully, it’s going to pay off on the page end,” he added.

And it’s looking it is. Ottumwa is playing host to the 14-year-old Babe Ruth World Series this summer. Other organizations have events planned in Ottumwa as well, including the Iowa Motion Picture Association, the American Cornhole League, American Planning Association Iowa Chapter, Technology Associate of Iowa, the Iowa-Missouri For Club and Leadership Iowa.

That’s good for the community as a whole, Wartenberg said. The economic impact of a three-day, two-night conference is $80,000 for the community. “Imagine magnifying that if we had a meeting or a group or a wedding every weekend here,” he said. “When people come into the Bridge View Center or they come to Hotel Ottumwa, they’re benefiting the entire community.”

And with advertising and social media campaigns, there’s potential for even more. “Basically, we’re not just focusing on group providers here,” he said of a recent promotional video. “We’re focusing on the people behind the group.

“With our aggressive advertising, the future is going to look really great for us,” Wartenberg said. “The bottom line, ladies and gentlemen, is this: We’re not striving to be a meeting destination anymore. We are. Why not have a brand that reflects that?”

— Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at tgoldizen@ottumwacourier.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

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Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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