Branding Phoenix runs into same old issues

Pity the folks entrusted with coming up with a city brand. It’s one of the hardest nuts to crack for a variety of reasons:

  • Too many stakeholders and interested parties
  • Past failures make everyone pessimistic, itch for a fight
  • Money spent on what seems like a few words is always seen as a ridiculous waste of taxpayer resources

If you don’t believe me, Google ‘London Olympic logo” and you’ll see what an identity brouhaha it created for Londoners, and all those experts out there. Even I couldn’t relate…

So to get back to the branding or Phoenix that has drawn fire, one comment from a reader of the Arizona Republic typifies what I am saying.

No money for education, senior citizens, no decent jobs, the housing market crashed …we have a crazy sheriff who uses our light rail for prisoner transport and a bunch of cameras on the freeway for government finances. Does the advertising agency know what a financial risk our state is?

The writer blames everything he is upset about in the state or county, on Phoenix. It’s too easy! Others have called it ‘too aspirational.’ I think much of this ire misses the point. A brand has to be a bit of a stretch, or a bit of reductionism.

No one blames Vegas for NOT coming outright and branding itself as “fake architecture, losers welcome!” now that “What happens in Vegas” has caught on so well to define ‘adult playground.’ If you analyze it to death, as those who slam all forms of branding tend to do, then ‘adult playground’ is a only half the story. But it resonates with what  Vegas visitors accept and expect.

Branding agencies may be expensive, the concept may seem one that an eighth grader could have come up with, and you can’t blame a city for what it is not –not Seattle, not New York, not (who knows) Helsinki.

So my point is, let’s not analyze this new Phoenix branding to death. It sorely needed a refreshing new identity with so much going on there in the past few years, recession or not. As most branding experts say, a brand is what you invest into it. Not the slogan (anyone knows the slogan of ebay?) but the emotional experience.

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