Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's Terrible Branding....For Real

A recent headline in Advertising Age about the city of Buffalo's new tourism slogan may seem self explanatory; however, I think there is a deeper statement being made when AdAge exclaims that "Buffalo's Tagline Highlights the Worst of Tourism Marketing."

The easy conclusion to reach is that the new hired pitch for the city of Buffalo- For Real, is truly terrible. However, it speaks volumes that AdAge, perhaps the strongest voice of the industry and a publication of choice for defenders of this type of meaningless "branding" is trying to tell them that their work is so bad it's comical. However, these jokes are getting quite old.

Buffalo's For Real campaign is bad for lots of reasons. The words are not distinct. It takes no specific position or particular meaning to the city. Yes, it makes sense if you think about it but a good slogan shouldn't have to be thought about to be understood. It just is.

Eventually, the slogan will make sense if one thinks about for a bit. Essentially, the message that Buffalo's tourism organization is trying to convey is that their town is much more than the snow, and chicken wings and closed factories that most people know it for. They're trying to change people's the perception of the city, which is what will really sink the new campaign. That's because perceptions rarely change.

Smart marketers don't fight to change a perception. They work with it. The reason is these marketers know that people will rarely make the necessary leap that's needed to change a perception. They simply won't believe it just because some marketer said so.

Therefore, in Buffalo's case, they use what people already know. A gray, snowy, wilting rust belt city that only survives because of it's citizens ingrained blue collar work ethic, grit, determination, toughness and pride.

Buffalo is a city of hearty souls. For Real.


Brian Bowsher said...

The video made no mention of sports either, which I thought was odd. A quick shot of the Party on the Plaza would have showed passion for the city.


Alexander said...

Yeah, I read a Buff News article that went into a bit more detail. It said the target demo for this was more retirees with lots of money and time on their hands. So I think there going for a more art/theater type of crowd.

But I think you make a good point. The sports teams are a huge part of the characterization of the city, and what I think happens a lot of time is that the marketer tailors a campaign to people just like them. And (I'm stereotyping but) I don't think a lot of the uber-creative types and these ad agencies are very big sports fans.

Thanks for reading too. Hope all is well in Milwaukee!

Alexander said...

A little bonus coverage. I meant to add this as an attachment to the article but I didn't like how it connected to the Buffalo story itself.

From Advertising Age, Al Ries Branding expert discusses slogans and positioning in his article, "Long Slogans Are Absolutely, Positively More Effective Than Short One's." He lists lots of slogans equally as bad as Buffalo.

* Ally Bank: Straightforward.
* Acura: Advance.
* American Express: Take charge.
* AT&T: Rethink possible.
* CA Technologies: We can.
* FedEx: We understand.
* Fidelity investments: Turn here.
* Ford: Drive one.
* Goodyear: Get there.
* Hertz: Journey on.
* Infiniti: Inspired performance.
* Lexus: Pursuing perfection.
* Porsche: Intelligent performance.
* Toyota: Moving forward.
* Volkswagen: Das auto.

As well as terrible tourism Slogans have there own section.

* Brazil: "Sensational."
* Colombia: "Passion."
* Germany: "Simply inspiring."
* Greece: "The true experience."
* India: "Incredible."
* Kenya: "Magical."
* Korea: "Dynamic."
* Malaysia: "Truly Asia."
* Singapore: "Uniquely."
* South Africa: "It's possible."
* Thailand: "Amazing."

For a little extra bonus reading, copy and paste this url...

Alexander said...'s very clearly a downward trend in the industry.