EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT/The branding of Atlanta
As an attempt to educate those of us living “down South” on the feelings about our Northern brethren in the 1950s, Southern wags used to say that Yankees would head south on vacation wearing a clean pair of underwear and carrying a $100 bill, neither of which would be changed until they arrived in Florida. Since then, the antebellum South has been transformed into the Sun Belt, and its largest city, Atlanta, boasts the third highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies, behind New York and Houston.
However, seeing the need for a well-defined and marketable image for Atlanta, last month the city unveiled a new “Brand Atlanta” program. Funded by the city’s corporate leaders and embraced by government officials, the program is spending $4.5 million to create an image that will encourage people and businesses to move here, my hometown.
But, wait a minute. I understand that the city must remain competitive, but the Atlanta area already attracts about 80,000 new residents every year, and with its nearly 4 million people, it is larger than half the states. And, because the city has attracted people from everywhere in America and around the world, Atlanta is going to be difficult to characterize. About one in five people who live here were born here.
The campaign’s logo appears to have captured Atlanta’s basic attractions for so many of us, using the letter “O” to represent opportunity, optimism and openness. Writing a song for the branding of Atlanta, however, is proving to be more difficult with campaign officials wanting two versions, pop and urban, and the songwriter trying to blend the two.
The early version of the new Atlanta anthem moves like a Stevie Wonder song (a good thing), but I was taken back by some of the lyrics that might be interpreted more than one way. For example, “Get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up,” is repeated in one part of the song, which won’t help Atlanta’s image as a city with a high crime rate. And the phrase, “Where the music makes you drop to your knees,” does not class up our strip joint image, either.
As of press time, the city is still tinkering, but Brand Atlanta says that the logo, song and campaign’s tagline will be unveiled this month. Even though I write this editorial in late October, I hope there’s still time for Brand Atlanta to consider either of my two taglines, which are based on the perceptions of the people outside Atlanta I’ve worked with for more than two decades:
- Atlanta. We’re not as hot as you think.
- Atlanta. You’ve come for the climate.
You’ll stay because you’re stuck in traffic.
When I think about it, though, maybe our traffic serves a higher purpose. There’s virtually no way anyone can get through Atlanta without having to crawl across the jammed expressways, which means, sooner or later, our visitors likely will have to stop somewhere in the city and break that $100 bill.
As for the underwear — they’re on their own.