Posted At: December 20, 2011 1:45 PM
by Dorothy Griffith
Every city has its own identity — a distinct personality or “vibe” that makes it unique and interesting. For residents or visitors, the character of a city is probably pretty apparent. But how do the cities themselves bottle this idea up and market it to people all over the country and the world?
The city of Austin, Texas, is known for its eclectic culture, live music and local food. The tagline that the city uses to embody its unique culture and encourage Austin residents to buy local is “Keep Austin Weird.”
While there are assuredly some “weird” aspects to Austin, the slogan has come to represent much more than that.
“The slogan is definitely a big part of the city, in terms of people supporting local businesses and trying to preserve a unique culture,” Karie Meltzer, a journalist living in Austin and former editor of the Austin Post (http://www.austinpost.org/) said.
According to an article from MSNBC (MSNBC article), the phrase originated from an Austin resident who called into a radio show and explained that he was donating money to the show because he felt it “helps keep Austin weird.”
Since then, “Keep Austin Weird” has become a rallying cry for the strange and interesting aspects of the city. But it has developed into a marketing tool for the city as well, appearing on T-shirts, billboards and bumper stickers.
Mobile, Ala., has a similar campaign. “Keep Mobile Funky” began as a tagline for a local paper, The Lagniappe, which proclaims itself to be “something extra for Mobile.”
The paper also uses the slogan as a means to promote the city’s personality and encourage its residents to patronize local businesses, restaurants and happenings around the city, said Lagniappe co-editor Rob Holbert.
“We’ve used the phrase ‘Keep Mobile Funky’ as not only a brand for the paper, but also a way to help promote the originality of the city. Much of this is by trying to associate KMF with local businesses and events,” Holbert said.
“After all, much of what gives a city its flavor is its locally owned businesses. Everyone has a Walmart.”
Lagniappe started out including short, inexpensive ads for local businesses — a mutually beneficial relationship that provided funds for the paper and a means of publicity for the businesses.
“It served as a great directory for local businesses and gave them a chance to advertise for next-to-nothing,” Holbert said.
The trend is catching on and these aren’t the only cities to adopt a slogan celebrating their strangeness. According to an article by Dan Soloman from City’s Best, Portland, Ore., Boulder, Colo. and Asheville, N.C. have all championed their own brand of weird.
“Even cities of questionable weirdness, like Tampa, Florida, have adopted the slogan in an unofficial capacity,” he said.
So what do these campaigns against the ordinary really do for the cities that espouse them? At the core of these campaigns may be a love song for the quirky personality of a city, but it is hard to deny that these slogans act as a clever marketing scheme, promoting local establishments and tourist attractions to people all over the world.
Photo: Victor Chappa/Flickr