Thursday, July 27, 2006

Houston's identity: Global Village, American Dream, Texas Spirit

Concluding Houston branding identity week (previously: Why brand?, History and Strategy), today we wrap up with a proposal. I've talked about a differentiation strategy offering a "best of both worlds" between two categories: a big, multi-ethnic, international city with great amenities, culture, and opportunities, while also being affordable and fast-growing with a feeling of community. Remember what we're looking for here is a broad branding identity, not necessarily the short "Something City" nickname. After a lot of word tweaking, this is my best shot, although there are potential variants I'll discuss below.

Global Village,
American Dream,
Texas Spirit

Obviously trying to create a rhythmic pattern with the geographic zoom-in from globe to America to Texas. First, let me go through the logic behind each term, then we'll get to some variants.

Global Village: Clearly a little wordplay on the generally-accepted meaning of this term. In the last post near the bottom, I laid out Houston's international credentials. There are two other connotations I like here: 1) the unity and community feel of a village, and 2) the term has both technology overtones (Internet and the web bringing the world together) and connectivity implications - a nice fit with our port and Intercontinental airport hub. I thought about "Global Community" here instead, but it doesn't have the additional connotations of "Global Village", and I think community is a term that has gotten overused in recent years (nobody builds subdivisions of houses anymore, they're all communities of homes), diluting its impact.

American Dream: Optimism, opportunity, social/economic mobility, and affordable home ownership. To put a twist on NYC's famous saying, "If you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere." (thanks to Patrick for inspiring this piece with his "Houston = Accessible American Dream" insight)

Texas Spirit: pioneering and entrepreneurial, hard-working, can-do energy, tough but friendly, independence within community, hospitality, openness to outsiders, charitable (noted worldwide after Katrina).

I think the combination of all three of those terms creates a pretty unique identity for Houston vs. other cities.

A few variants/options.
  • We already talked about "Global Community" above.
  • It could be mixed with any number of nicknames, from "Bayou City" to "Space City" to "Open City" to "City of Opportunity". I still believe "Open City" or "Open City of Opportunity" are good sum-ups of all three terms into a nickname.
  • I added "Texas Spirit" at the last minute, and it could be dropped if it needs to be shorter.
  • Finally, if we wanted to have fun with it and throw in a NASA reference, we could zoom out another level with "Galactic Hub, Global Village, American Dream, Texas Spirit"... ;-)
Well, that's my pitch. Comments and feedback welcome. Hope you enjoyed Houston branding identity week. Next week, we'll dig into a backlog of non-transportation/non-branding news topics that built up over the last two theme weeks.


At 11:28 PM, July 27, 2006, Blogger Adam said...

The suspense was killing me, buddy!

I love it with the 'galactic hub' part at the beginning.

At 12:16 PM, July 28, 2006, Blogger Max Concrete said...

I don't have anything better to offer, but I can be a critic. :-)

First, it is too long. It needs to be short and pithy. (Yes, I know Vegas is longer but it has a payoff).

Second, it smacks of committee origins with its politically-correct platitudisms.

At 12:48 PM, July 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too think it's too long, but just to play off the theme that Tory has set, how about: Global city, Texas style?

At 4:20 PM, July 28, 2006, Blogger John Whiteside said...

Too long. But good thinking.

"American Dream" is vague and "Texas Spirit" is, I think, off-putting outside of Texas.

I have a general problem with "best of both worlds" or "everything to everyone" positioning - I think it's inherently a bit weak - but I think the "Global Village" idea has legs. It is something that differentiates us from other mid-tier (in perception, not size) cities. So I could see something like "America's Global Village" working.

(I still like your older "Open City" though!)

At 10:30 PM, July 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're not trying to come up with a catchy, memorable name that can be used to sell the city to outsiders, I'm not sure what it is you're trying to do. Who's going to use this?

Also, I don't see why this couldn't just as easily be Dallas's identity.

At 12:22 PM, July 29, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

It's not a catchy name, it's an identity. It reinforces "this is who we are, and how we're different from other cities" - kind of like "Keep Austin Weird" does for Austin.

I would argue Dallas is not nearly as demographically or commercially global/international as Houston.

At 12:25 PM, July 29, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is an earnest attempt to contribute to your discussion on Houston "Branding"

Houston - "Port-au-Plenty"

World Class in:

Science; World-renown medical facilities, Bio-research and Super Condution

Shipping; Major Air/Ground/Rail/Water Transport facilities and services

Space Exploration; NASA

Sports; A leader in Sports venues

Synthetics; Massive concentration of petrochemical refineries

At 6:04 PM, July 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is too long. Plus, I think it takes time and money to get the slogan any national exposure. Agree with the other who said "Texas Spirit" is a negative to anyone outside of Texas.

Even to get Houstonians to use a new slogan would take an effort, since we already have:

Bayou City
Space City
Clutch City

And, for a hip-hop type of reference, I think references to "H-Town" are unambiguous.

Successful phrases seem to be no more than 4 or 5 words:

Chicago: The Windy City
New York: The Big Apple
Cincinnati: The Queen City
St. Louis: Gateway to the West
Las Vegas: Sin City

They all have something to do with the city, and are very terse. I think "Space City" or "Bayou City" are pretty good for Houston.

If we were doing ads targeted for outsiders, I think something like: "The power is on" where the ON is visually part of HOUSTON, would be a good reference to the energy industry, and could also be a cool ad where references were made to our great cultural institutions, sports teams, med center, universities, business community, proximity to the Gulf / Latin America, etc. But I guess it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish, and who the target audience is.

At 6:52 AM, July 31, 2006, Blogger Matt Bramanti said...

Troy, "open city" is an unfortunate choice, if you understand the accepted meaning of the term.

In warfare, if a city is about to be attacked, the leadership can declare it an "open city," meaning that the defenders have given up. The invading army then marches in peacefully, rather than subjecting the city to the death and destruction that comes with street-to-street fighting.

Then again, it would accurately describe our policing situation...

At 7:45 AM, July 31, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I hadn't heard that term before, so I looked it up online.

open city


A city that is declared demilitarized during a war, thus gaining immunity from attack under international law.

It does create a problem if this is a common, known usage. "Open City of Opportunity" can mitigate it, I think.

At 8:30 AM, July 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Open City is also a New York literary magazine.

At 4:43 PM, July 31, 2006, Blogger Cory said...

Why, when I hear "Open City" can I not help but think of brothels and free booze?

Maybe its just me.

(still partial to "Bayou City" btw.)


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