Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 27, 2009

Istanbul, not Constantinople

I've been debating where to write this post. Is it politics? is it branding? It's both, but ultimately it puts me on my branding soap box to point out that many "marketers" have no clue what a brand actually is.

Throughout history there have been several nations, cities, and other geographical locations which have changed their names. Most of which have had to do with a change of government structure or independence from a former ruling nation. Little known fact to the citizens of South Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas is that former Salt Lake City mayor Deedee Corradini seized control of South Salt Lake during her term and controlled it as a puppet city. Rocky Anderson continued this oppression over the neighboring city for an additional 8 years, depleting it of its natural resources and using its prosperity for the benefit of the master city.

When South Salt Lake finally gained its sovereignty in 2009 it decided that a name change was necessary to raise the spirits of the formerly oppressed city. No longer would they be the plaything of that oppressive Salt Lake City...

Don't believe the story? You shouldn't. But it is only as outregeous as the city hiring a marketing firm and wanting to rename itself to improve its image and strive for future prosperity. The project could cost the small city of approximately 22,000 people $6500-$600,000 to complete the name change. Steve Aste, a developer whose Market Station development is on hold for financial reasons, even suggested that city hall be relocated to create a more downtown feel.

All of this talk about big spending while the city is trying to balance its 2009-2010 budget and cannot provide raises to its employees. Sounds like the right time for useless wasting of the public's tax dollars, right? Since they seem to have money just sitting around in this extremely prosperous city.

I am not insulting the economic plight of the residents of South Salt Lake, it is unfortunate that this happens to be an area plagued with poverty and crime. The point is that a city's leadership should not be looking at ridiculous temporary marketing antics rather than solving the problem which is South Salt Lake City's brand. The brand is not the name, changing the name to New Millcreek or any other sweet-sounding moniker is not going to end the crime. It will not provide prosperity to its residents and make everyone wealthy enough to tear down their old homes and allow Ivory Homes to rebuild the city to become North Draper.

The real brand work is to help the city reach its potential of being a perfectly located suburb of a busy downtown Salt Lake City. Spend the time and money on encouraging modest affordable housing to fill the empty lots and shopping centers. Provide grants to unique small businesses that can add character and prosperity to the neighborhood. Clean up the blighted areas and provide playgrounds where families can feel safe. Help the residents who live there overcome the crime and poverty.

South Salt Lake has a prime location to be a great city. But the "leadership" needs real strategies on how to make the South Salt Lake brand great, not paint a new name on the city that will still be known as the bad part of Salt Lake County.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sci-Fi catches syphilis

Okay, so the Sci-Fi Channel didn't really catch syphilis, but it did catch an equally horrible disease: Marketing Myopia.
There are very few reasons to change a brand name, most of which revolve around having such a poor public opinion of your brand that customers will not trust you. In the case of Sci-Fi Channel, I don't believe their viewers were running away from the station.

No, the powers that be wanted a name that they could trademark. Sci-Fi is a generic term that refers to the genre, and therefore they cannot trademark "Sci-Fi." Also, their programming has always been more than just science fiction, so they wanted something that was not so limiting in perception. The first point, ownership, is a nonsense reason to pursue a name change. They had legal protection for the name "Sci-Fi Channel" and the related logo. Now, I can give them a little credit on the second point. It is important for customers to hear your name and instantly know what it stands for.

But here is the problem, their customers already knew what to expect from them. Brand equity existed with the old name, and ultimately it made sense. Not everyone on earth strictly defines science fiction the same way. There was no need to change the name to broaden their scope. Even if the argument was to attract new viewers, what is the sound they will hear? It still is pronounced the same, but now they have lost the inherint definition of what viewers can expect from the channel.

What has the name change accomplished? Likely made some design firm money to design the logo and change their collateral material, added confusion, and gave their loyal customers a reason to have a grudge against them.

Fiscal irresponsibility and angering customers. Hmm, isn't that the opposite of what marketers should be doing for their firm?

For a great counterpoint in support of the name change, read SUb's post on Why Syfy is a Good Idea.