Branding Milwaukee to the World

Milwaukee, Wisconsin — established in 1846, now is the 31st most populous city in the United States with close to 600,000 residents.

Milwaukee has always been one of my secrets; I would even go further and say it’s my best kept secret. Growing up in a suburb of Milwaukee (New Berlin to be exact) I became very familiar with the city of beer, cheese and brats. I then decided to attend college in downtown Milwaukee, exposing me to parts that only made my love even fonder.

On March 18, 2015 I attended the Insight Summit Series Digital Advertising & Marketing Summit put on by Laughlin Constable and Marquette University. Throughout the day speakers from Google, Buzzfeed, The Onion, the Green Bay Packers + more shared insights about what’s in store for 2015.

Enter Ian Abston, founder of NEWaukee. You’re probably wondering what John Doe here has to offer, relative to how well-known Newaukee is compared to some of the most reputable names in business around the globe.

Ian founded the group NEWaukee in 2009 to help connect and engage millennials to Milwaukee. NEWaukee, a social architecture firm, is currently spearheading one of the largest young professional groups in the Midwest and works closely with both the City of Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin to help ensure the next generation of leadership decides to make Milwaukee home.

In one of the afternoon sessions, Ian’s “Branding Milwaukee to the World” shared how Milwaukee stands in the digital world.

“It’s a real exciting time to be in Milwaukee right now.”
Ian Abston, Newaukee
Photo from Bubby and Bean

Hello world, Milwaukee is here to stay.

“Millennials are choosing places to live based on culture,” Ian says. It’s no surprise Milwaukee is where today’s generations chooses to live due to its culture, even compared to Chicago or Minneapolis, other Midwest hotspots.

And here’s why…


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11 days. 11 stages. 800+ musical acts. Over 900,000 of your closest friends.

The World’s Largest Music Festival

Is that enough to garner your interest yet?

Summerfest has been part of Milwaukee’s identity for close to 50 years. Throughout its two-week run, people, not only from Milwaukee, but around the world, flock to Henry Maier Festival Park, a 75-acre property on the lakefront to hear some of the world’s greatest and most popular musicians.

Past performers include:

  • Johnny Cash
  • Metallica
  • Bon Jovi
  • Bruno Mars
  • Lady Gaga

Picture Lollapalooza, but better.

Third Ward

The Historic Third Ward is Milwaukee’s Arts and Fashion District. It offers the city’s most dynamic spread of restaurants, spas, theaters, galleries, and unique boutiques all in a historic warehouse setting. The neighborhood was named a Top 12 ArtPlace in 2013 and is home to the award-winning Third Ward Riverwalk and the Milwaukee Public Market.

Even better, it’s within walking distance of downtown.

The Third Ward’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Milwaukee’s oldest center of commerce and warehousing. In 2015, the Third Ward is home to over 500 businesses.

Bradford Beach

Photo from Twitter

When it’s hot in Milwaukee, locals know to hit Bradford Beach. Bradford is Milwaukee’s most popular beach located on the shore of Lake Michigan.

After undergoing a massive clean-up and concerted efforts by local non-profits, businesses and the County Parks to bring entertainment, Bradford Beach underwent a huge transformation in just one decade — going from a dump to a regular hangout.

For the active — you’ll see organized sports like soccer, sand volleyball tournaments and yoga to frisbee or football —and for the nonactive — you’ll see many enjoying the luxury of simply lying on the beach.

Photo from Urban Milwaukee Dial

In fact, I took advantage of what Bradford Beach had to offer in the late 2000's. That seems like a lifetime ago (photo from 2008).

Teammate Conrad Kaminski and I played in doubles leagues

Jazz in the Park

Photo from East Town Association

Amidst Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s eventful and glorious summer — Summerfest, State Fair, Brewers games, different cultural festivals — Jazz in the Park is a staple.

On Thursdays from June - September in Cathedral Square Park Milwaukeeans frequently gather to enjoy the beautiful weather and listen to different music.

Jazz in the Park is Milwaukee’s favorite free, outdoor, summer music series, featuring a diverse, dynamic lineup of jazz, funk, R & B, reggae, blues and more!

“This city does cool shit,” says Ian,
talking about the piano crosswalk.
Photo from Tumblr

Only in Milwaukee would you be able to find something similar to Abbey Road. Steps away from Cathedral Square Park is this. If you want to read more about the piano crosswalk, go here.

Jazz in the Park
Photo by Phil Batzner |


Photo from Schlitz Park

One of Milwaukee’s stereotypes is being a beer city. It has been part of its DNA since its beginning thanks to its German heritage.

Brewery tours are very common since Milwaukee once made beer for the entire world.

Former major breweries include:

  • Schlitz
  • Blatz
  • Pabst
  • Miller (still present)

Milwaukee is even home to the world-renowned Beer Runner! He once ran and drank beer every day for 3 years.

If you’re looking for a nice cold one to sip-on, regardless if the weather’s freezing cold or cool and sunny, Milwaukee is the place to be.

NEWaukee Night Market

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Wisconsin Avenue is one of the main streets in downtown and NEWaukee was tasked with finding a solution to revitalize it.

NEWaukee’s Night Market is a collision of all Milwaukee has to offer. The Night Market is a free, open-air market that offers a wide variety of experiences for people of all backgrounds and ages. Featuring a mash-up of art and craft vendors, technology installations, food trucks/carts, live art creation, performances, local music and a beer garden that will support local art organizations, the goal is to create a free, vibrant, safe and interactive place in downtown Milwaukee for people to experience culture at night.

The market is held during the evenings one Wednesday a month from June through September.

NEWaukee’s work here is a prime example of what Ian said below.

“Milwaukee is a great place because it’s an unfinished city. There’s a lot of open space and opportunity. If you dont like it, change it.”


Photo from MKE Packages

Milwaukee has festivals for days. Literally.

At just about any time of the year there will be some sort of festival occurring. Some of the city’s top festivals or events include:

  • Wisconsin State Fair — an 11-day extravaganza filled with family fun, musical entertainment and obscure, unique foods you wouldn’t imagine! This fair boasts 30 free entertainment stages and hosts more than 1,000 animals. A trip to the State Fair wouldn’t be complete without devouring the classic creampuff.
  • Milwaukee Air and Water Show — the 7th annual free airshow held along the lakefront and is the largest two-day event in Wisconsin
  • Milwaukee Indy Fest — Verizon’s IndyCar Series regularly visits the world-famous Milwaukee Mile for a few days of high speed action at the world’s oldest operating motor speedway
  • Bastille Days — one of the nation’s largest French-themed celebrations
  • Other cultural events, such as Irish Fest, Festa Italiana and German Fest

Professional Sports

Photo from 620 WTMJ

If you’re looking for a city with great sports, Milwaukee is just your place.

Milwaukee has the following:

  • Milwaukee Brewers — Major League Baseball (MLB) team
  • Milwaukee Bucks — National Basketball Association (NBA) team
  • Milwaukee Admirals — American Hockey League (AHL) team
  • Milwaukee Wave — Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) team

And just a few hours north is the Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin’s National Football League (NFL) team.

Milwaukee Brewers
"#BrewCrew at Miller Park"
Photo by Phil Batzner |

Bublr Bikes

Photo from Bublr Bikes

Bublr Bikes is Milwaukee’s bike share program.

It is sponsored by the City of Milwaukee and Midwest BikeShare Inc., a Milwaukee-based not-for-profit organization. Currently there are 10 stations, but the team plans to launch at least 100 stations in Milwaukee and surrounding suburbs in the coming years.

Along with the introduction of the streetcar system (launching soon), Bublr is helping reinvent transportation in MKE.


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As much as Milwaukee’s DNA is built on beer, it also is derived from coffee. Beer isn’t the only thing brewed in Milwaukee!

Some Milwaukee coffee spots include (in no particular order):

  • Colectivo Coffee (formerly Alterra Coffee): handmade in Milwaukee since 1993. Every single bean is still roasted by hand, blended, packaged, and shipped from their roaster in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. Home to 14 spots in the city.
  • Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.: Born in 1999, Anodyne is a locally owned, small batch roaster that aims to soothe and relax Milwaukee.
  • Stone Creek Coffee: responsibly grown, meticulously roasted, undeniably local. Owner of 10 coffee shops.
  • Valentine Coffee Roasters: Recently founded in 2009, Valentine started with loving all things delectable, then wondering why. It definitely is giving all major forces in the Milwaukee coffee market a run for its money.

Keep a look out for some local cups of joe at restaurants, cafes and grocers throughout metro Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Home

Photo from Milwaukee Home

Milwaukee Home is New York City’s version of “I❤NY,” except it is a brand built by the community.

Milwaukee Home loves what Milwaukee has to offer — from the music venues to the restaurants, down to the unique DNA of every neighborhood: the people. This is what makes Milwaukee Home.

When Milwaukeean Melissa Thornton found herself back at home in the Brew City, she realized this.

I moved back to Milwaukee in 2010, after 5 years in one of America’s largest, most well-known cities. Returning, I realized that Milwaukee has evolved into a more vital, creative, energetic, youthful community. There’s a pride and a chic cache that comes with saying “I live in Milwaukee.”

She gifted a hoodie with the logo above to one of her friends, and people approached him and wondered where they can purchase similar apparel.

And the rest…well, is history.

Milwaukee Home
Me repping MKE Home Photo by Phil Batzner |


Photo from LinekdIn

Photo of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Not only is Milwaukee home to great beer, sports teams or even Milwaukee Home, 13 higher education institutions help make up its identity ensuring that the future of Milwaukee will host some of the best and brightest in the nation.

Marquette University

Photo by Dan Johnson

Marquette University is a Catholic and Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee, Wis., that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools.

Along the way, it asks one thing of every student: Be The Difference.

Notable alumni include:

  • Dwyane Wade — 3× NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP (2006) & 11× NBA All-Star
  • Danny Pudi — NBC Community star
  • Chris Farley — American comedian and actor

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)

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Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) is a private, non-profit university offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, business, mathematics and nursing. At MSOE, you will find a caring community of students and faculty. Together, they are committed to fostering a higher standard of academic programming and research, and personalized service, instruction and guidance.

Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

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The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) is an accredited college providing Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in the fields of Communication Design, Drawing, Illustration, Industrial Design, Integrated Fine Arts Studio, Interior Architecture + Design, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture and Time-Based Media. It prepares students with interest and ability in the visual arts for passage into professional careers. They’re not a trade school. MIAD’s a college that launches professional artists and designers on their personal journeys toward artistic growth and successful, creative lives.

Medical College of Wisconsin

Photo from Vascular Web

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) provides an educational experience that helps students discover their potential and true calling in medicine. It is dedicated to developing future physicians who are highly effective patient care providers, innovative pioneers in medical research and respected leaders in their communities.

Ian’s take-away’s for Milwaukee’s success

Ian often is asked, “As a city, how do we get people interested?”

  1. Connect people to the place
  2. Connect people to people

Ian’s 3 tips to retaining inhabitants

Create the following:

  1. Connection to people — it allows entities the opportunity to grow a network
  2. Exploration — people will become more invested in the city
  3. Volunteering — it reminds citizens they are part of something bigger than themselves. They’ll also start to take care and love their city even more.

So what’s my connection to Milwaukee?

9 months ago, I wrote the following piece as a caption to an Instagram photo.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are beautiful cities like Milwaukee. Cities that allow me to explore, cities that allow me to lose myself and then only be found later on, cities that overwhelm me with endless opportunities, and lastly, cities that make me fall in love again and again, even though I’ve loved them since day 1.”

“There’s only 2 kinds of people that don’t like Milwaukee. Those that have never been, and those that have never left.”
- Ian Abston

Need more reasons to love Milwaukee? Here’s 100 of them.

Photo from Milwaukee Magazine