How We Got Started.

  |  Branding & Design Strategy  |  Chris Rowland

Deskey has been working hard on the branding work for Hamilton County’s major infant mortality initiative, Cradle Cincinnati. Although our part is just a small one, we thought it would be interesting to give people a glimpse of how we put this campaign together. This is part of a series of four articles that discusses how we named it, how we discovered our strategy, how we designed it, and how we got started in the first place.


It happened on a playground, of all places. I had taken my toddler daughter to play at a park one morning, and ran into a friend who was working on a new project. And it was there, surrounded by children, that I learned a fact that would change the way I looked at our city.

Cincinnati’s infant mortality rate is double the national average.

When I heard it, I thought something had to be wrong. What does infant mortality mean? How is it defined? How could a place like Cincinnati have this kind of crisis?

The more I spoke to folks who did know, the more I learned, and the more I realized that we are facing a problem urgently in need of a solution.

Infant mortality is defined by the number of babies born alive that die before their first birthday. They never get to see the age of one. While the national average is somewhere around six in every thousand babies, Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati records over 12 out of every thousand babies. When you look at the communities with the highest incidents, the statistics are closer to 20 out of every thousand babies. That’s worse than many third world countries. And it’s happening right here, a few blocks from my office.

So how could this be? Well, it’s not for a lack of effort. County Commissioner Todd Portune has been fighting this for years. He estimates that about $100 million has been spent to reduce the IMR (infant mortality rate) in the county over the last 10 years. Some of the best and brightest have failed in their efforts.

So when Portune’s office reached out on a renewed effort to reduce IMR, we said, “How could we help?”

At Deskey, we are experts at branding, and we have a passion to support causes, especially locally. With Doug Studer’s, Deskey CEO, endorsement and encouragement, we have gone all in. One of our strategic partners completely immersed herself in the challenge, and we spoke to all of the critical stakeholders involved.

We suspected that some of the problem was political inertia, so we knew it was critical to understand all of the dynamic forces at play. Portune’s office created a coalition of all the area healthcare providers as well as community organizations. So the people were in place, the challenge was to get them moving, and keep them moving in the same direction.

Craig Motlong, our director of copy and strategy, worked with our strategy consultant to develop the creative. His twin sons were born at 27 weeks, and he has a firsthand knowledge of the perils of prematurity – and the power of institutions to save lives. Doug Sovonick, our chief creative officer, helped design the logo, and the rest is history.

We named the collaborative Cradle Cincinnati. Its mission is to create synergy among the existing community organizations, healthcare providers, the city and county health departments, and all political entities to embrace this goal: Not one infant mortality in the city and county. Not one.

It’s a lofty goal, to be sure. But none more worthy. And under the leadership of Ryan Adcock, and continued backing by Portune and City Councilman Wendell Young, Drs. Jim Greenberg (Children’s Hospital) and Elizabeth Kelly (University Hospital), it is achievable.

At Deskey, we are not doctors. We are not social workers. We’re not a government agency. But, hopefully, we can help make the critical jobs they do a little easier. We’ve come a long way since my morning on the playground, surrounded by chaotic, ecstatic, joyful life. We’re proud to do our part to support those on the front lines, and hope that we can inspire others to take action.

Chris Rowland

Chris Rowland

Chris is a passionate advocate for brands, clients, strategy and design — and has over fifteen years of experience in the art and science of brand management. Chris has a cross-disciplinary approach to strategic branding, able to come at a problem from all perspectives. His ability to think in 360 degrees has helped him champion countless brands, including Procter & Gamble, Intuit, WL Gore, Novartis, Bush Beans, Jack Links, Ferguson and more.