Sometimes the best ideas are the ones right before your eyes.

Take Cincinnati's branding and consumer marketing know how, for example.

It's no secret Procter & Gamble launched the first national advertising campaign for Ivory soap back in 1882. And the whole concept of brand management originated with a memo in 1931 from future P&G president Neil McElroy.

As the home to major consumer retailers like Macy's and Kroger, Cincinnati has spawned an array of branding and marketing firms unlike anywhere else. Those include names like Landor Associates, LPK, Possible Worldwide and new players in digital marketing like dunnhumbyUSA and Rockfish Interactive. Underscoring that presence, dunnhumbyUSA and the American Advertising Federation Cincinnati are planning D2 Cincinnati, a major digital marketing conference, on Sept. 11 and 12 at the Horseshoe Casino focused on customer-centered marketing.

All together, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber says major retailers, marketing and branding shops "” large and small "” employ some 60,000 people in the area. Jobs in branding, consumer marketing and retail locally are growing at about 16 percent annually, compared to less than 4 percent nationally.

"We have an unchallenged advantage, frankly, against any place in the world when you're looking at the development of consumer brands," says Denyse Ferguson, senior vice president and executive director of the Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development.

Building on the state of Ohio's designation of Cincinnati as a Hub of Innovation and Opportunity in Consumer Marketing a couple years ago, the chamber established its BrandHUB initiative to not only promote the region's branding expertise but also use those resources to support other targeted industries like advanced manufacturing and biohealth dealing with marketing issues and develop Cincinnati's own economic development message on a global scale.

To lead the effort, Nicole Ball, chamber marketing manager, was named BrandHUB director recently. With the help of a council of senior leaders from the city's top branding firms, BrandHUB is working on a number of initiatives. They include a digital marketing campaign for the region, developing programming around branding expertise and organizing a possible road show to highlight the region's talents in other markets.

One big issue, say Ferguson and Ball, is that Cincinnati doesn't have an identity in many parts of the globe. It's something Ferguson saw first-hand during two trips to Israel last year.

"What they know is that we are somewhere between New York and Los Angeles, and that's about it," she says.

Another challenge is what many see as Cincinnati's conservative heritage that frowns on braggadocio. "It's a massive hurdle," says Ferguson. "What we don't appreciate is there is a difference between marketing and hubris."

One BrandHUB idea that's already gotten traction is something called "office hours," quarterly meetings where businesses can come in and discuss marketing and branding issues informally with the leaders of some of the city's top firms.

"At the first one in January, two companies came in with marketing and branding needs," Ball says. "We brought together our council and put their issues before them and got a conversation going on where they needed to go and what their options were."

The "office hours" concept helped attract one biohealth company during the chamber's visits to Israel, Ferguson says. The company is one of two interested in establishing a U.S. headquarters here, creating up to 200 jobs.

"In October we're going back to Israel with the BrandHUB leadership council and some creative folks to showcase some of our offerings," she says.

When it comes to economic development, Ferguson says, branding and consumer marketing expertise is what sets Cincinnati apart.

"There's no other place you can go and get CEOs of all the agencies sitting around a table together and have a conversation," says Ferguson. "Everybody in the beginning said there's no way you can do that. They're all competitors. What's interesting is that it's a uniquely Cincinnati thing. Cincinnati is incredibly collaborative. And it wasn't hard. That makes a huge statement on the culture of Cincinnati."