Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Thinking Exponentially About That Strapline Concept
Council has finally killed the "Live Exponentially" strapline. From what I have heard and read, at least one councilor and a former councilor are a bit exasperated with the public response to the Live Exponentially strapline. In one case a former councilor asks why Council should "appease" the public. In another interesting comment, Councillor David Izraelevitz said (to slightly paraphrase) that just as you wouldn't ask the employees of Coca Cola to come up with a branding for Coca Cola, you wouldn't ask the citizens of Los Alamos County to come up with a brand for Los Alamos County. (Coca-Cola comes up at 2:34 into the Council video). Such thinking is a big mistake in Bombtown. I've never seen a public so willing to pick up the torches and pitchforks over any sort of real or imagined infraction by Government. This one might not be a roundabout, but to some, just as visceral.
While it is a really good idea to design a catch phrase that will bring more outside folks into our shops, hotels, and restaurants, and it is a good idea to get professional help from marketing experts, whatever branding strapline gets adopted reflects on this community, is somewhat to strongly personal, and thus we inhabitants have a right to weigh in on how we and our community are portrayed to outsiders. Indeed, we are not "employees" of Los Alamos County, but the residents, owners, and therefore rightful players in deciding how our community is portrayed to the world. It is a bit surprising that Council, its hired consultants (and selected business leaders and LANL) would not realize that the public would want a strong say in how we are "advertised" to others. Especially given the close knit nature of this community, its common sense of purpose, and its well known ability to pugilistically analyze anything and everything brought before it. I appreciate Staff and Council's work, and agree we probably need to have someone with some intellectual distance work on this, but the final call should be the public's. Whatever is decided, we get to wear the t-shirt.
Note. Council video here. The debate on this starts at about the one hour mark and is quite illuminating.
So my advice to Council as it plots a path forward? Bring the public into the process. Now, not after the next debacle. Its our town. We have a right to some input on how this community is presented to others.
My personal choice of strapline, for what its worth, would be "Discover Our Secrets". Indeed, unless one lives or spends some time here, one probably does not have a full grasp of the majestic vistas across the Rio Grande Rift one can see from the back of the singletrack/horse trails on Kwage Mesa, the many cavates besides the ones at Bandelier, great skiing, and the glorious canyons. Or as my wife and I found out many years ago when LANL was recruiting me, the wonderful drive along the High Road to Taos that we took after a night sitting alongside Ashley Pond and pondering our impending decision during a gentle snowfall. This place has so much to offer. Plus, the double entendre is amusing to me, given my line of work.
A second issue is to ask what exactly it is that we are trying to accomplish. While bringing more out of town folks into our shops, hotels, and restaurants is a good idea that will benefit both shop owners and locals, such assets are not central players to the economy as we know it. Tourism does not bring in the high paying technical jobs we are used to and that are required to live and work on The Hill. Tourism, hopefully, will always be ancillary to the high value jobs we take for granted (and which we should NOT take for granted). Plus, this community, from my perspective, has to actually get off its hind end if it wants to attract visitors. When we run the Tour de Los Alamos, the business community is not, from what I observe, rushing to provide goods and services to racers. When I ride the Red River Century, the entire town rolls out the red carpet. When the International Mountain BikeAssociation wanted to make this a centerpiece of mountainbike riding comparable to places like Moab, the response was less than enthusiastic, to be polite. Likewise there seems to be a collective snooze when the suggestion of a local charity ride has been made, even to the Lodger's Tax folks, even tracing out a potential route. So one needs more than a catchy slogan. One has to put one's back muscles where one's slogan is.
We need a real discussion here. With public involvement. People take BombTown seriously, so that slogan, whether in a Chicago airport or the side of a DPW vehicle, has to resonate with residents.