Monday, August 2, 2010

Columbus and Its Search for a Slogan

Not long after I started my job in New York, I had a short email correspondence about a work-related matter with a woman I had never met. I noticed a 614 area code in the signature of her email, and I asked if she lived in Columbus. Yes, she responded. In fact, she lived down the street from one of my favorite Columbus restaurants.

Turns out she had just moved there from Boston. Her friends in Massachusetts, however, wondered why she would ever want to move to Ohio. I don't remember if I ever found out the reason that she moved there, but I do remember that she was enjoying the city.

I recalled those emails this past weekend when I read an article on page A13 of Saturday's New York Times. "There May Be 'No Better Place,' but There Is a Better Slogan" is about the efforts of Columbus to brand itself.

The first two paragraphs of the article meshes with my own experience:

Quick, what do you think about when you hear the words 'Columbus, Ohio'?

Still waiting. ... And that’s the problem that civic leaders here hope to solve.

When I say I'm from Ohio, let alone Columbus, no one knows quite what to think. If they know anything about the state, it usually has to do with college football, but they're almost as likely to confuse the state with Iowa or Idaho.

As the article says, Columbus doesn't have an image. (A slogan, yes -- albeit a boring and highly debatable one: "There's No Better Place.") That's unfortunate, because Columbus is a great city, and I often miss it for reasons beyond it being the home of so many friends and family. Good food. Gallery Hop. Shakespeare in the Park. Grocery stores with wide aisles.

It's all so accessible.

Which, I suppose, isn't the most exciting slogan either.

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