Perhaps the only thing more difficult than re-branding a community is selling that brand once you are finished.
As you might have heard, we are now: “Columbus Georgia: We do amazing.”
Yes, we do.
Have you seen our National Infantry Museum? Amazing. What about the new Global War on Terrorism memorial next to it? Amazing.
Have you seen the 2.5-mile urban whitewater course? It’s simply amazing. The RiverCenter for Performing Arts? Amazing. What about the Springer Opera House? It has been amazing since Francis Joseph Springer built it in 1871.
Downtown? It is amazing in the way it has changed over the years and become the primary tourist destination in our city.
The Chattahoochee RiverWalk? It’s amazing that a service road for a sewage line is amazing.
Columbus State University? Amazing place. The university’s Schwob School of Music? Amazing talent.
Oh, and don’t forget our amazing public/private partnerships.
And have you met our people? There are some amazing folks here: war heroes, educators, business folks, philanthropists and just plain old eccentrics.
You get the idea, there are some amazing things in our city.
But all of that is now lost because Peter Bowden, president and CEO of the Columbus GA Convention & Visitors Bureau, stood in front of city council on Tuesday and declared we have a new slogan and a new logo. He also said that a Tennessee-based firm, ChandlerThinks, was paid $97,000 for the effort.
As people pick apart the new logo and slogan — and I will preface this by saying that it’s not what I would have come up with — they need to remember this:
It’s not about the logo. It’s not about the slogan. It’s about the city’s story: who we are and how we got here.
But somehow that has gotten lost in the echo chamber that is social media. The logo has already been co-opted to less flattering names and slogans and memes. People are critical of the cost to rebrand and are poking holes all through it.
As this logo and slogan were rolled out quietly in recent weeks to small groups, there was initial pushback from some of the city’s stakeholders — the politically correct word for leaders. So, I don’t think anyone is surprised that the volume has been turned up now that it’s available for public digestion.
That’s the nature of these things — once widely digested, they can create indigestion.
On April 27, 2004, the city rolled out a new slogan: “Columbus, Ga.,What progress has preserved.” I remember it well because I was there doing what I do, reporting.
Here are the first three paragraphs of my story that day:
“Looking for a catchy slogan that will sell, the city of Columbus has turned to its past and present.
“Columbus, Ga., What progress has preserved.
“The city hopes to turn those six words into a unified marketing plan that will appeal to potential tourists, businesses and students.”
Hope springs eternal, and here we are 13 years later rebranding the rebrand. It almost makes one long for those simpler times when we were just “The Fountain City.”
At the time, “Columbus, Ga., What progress has preserved,” cost about $75,000. So, logo and marketing inflation over 13 years is about $22,000.
This time, ChandlerThinks conducted interviews with 18 community stakeholders and five focus groups with a total of 41 participants, according to information provided by Bowden. The process also included four interviews with Fort Benning personnel, 502 completed community surveys, as well as 325 attitude, awareness and perception surveys completed by residents in south Atlanta, Macon and Montgomery.
That’s a lot of ground work and I am certain more than once the word “amazing” was used. As noted, there are parts of Columbus that are truly amazing.
But there are so many ways this can be misused or twisted.
They are going to put it on city vehicles. Think about the memes that can come out of this when someone with a camera phone catches a city worker goofing off or in a less than flattering position.
What happens when a restaurant or merchant wants to use the slogan in a business that does average, not amazing? How do you control that?
We are in a different time than we were 13 years ago when the previous slogan was introduced. And one of the things that the city leaders who gave us “What progress has preserved” did not have to deal with in 2004 was Facebook and the social medial pushback that has followed “Columbus Georgia: We do amazing.”
There is a grassroots effort to create a site and rebrand the city outside of the organized effort. Why not? Take a stab at it. You may come up with something better than “Columbus Georgia: We do amazing.”
If you are going to do that, don’t make fun of it. Make it better.
One criticism I have heard and read: with the marketing and creative talent in the this city, why go to Tennessee to rebrand Columbus, Ga.?
Nobody knows us better than us.
But for now, what we have is “We do amazing.” At the risk of being called a “bootlicker” or “a sunshine pumper,” I will say that we do amazing here every single day.
The problem, as I see it from the vantage point of a journalist, is by setting the bar at amazing, you leave no room for error. To know how I think, you need to know that my motto is, “Under-promise, over-deliver.”
Let’s see, “Columbus, Georgia: Under-promise, over-deliver.”
OK, maybe this logo and slogan stuff is harder than it looks.