Guest Post: How to "Brand" Minnesota
This commentary from my father was just accepted for the Star Tribune. I thought it was worth sharing a sneak peek.
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The new marketing campaign highlighting the livability of the Twin Cities has it all wrong. We don’t want to attract people. An influx of Californians would do to Minneapolis-St. Paul what it did to Santa Fe.
We want to repel people. To do this, we should adopt an already familiar phrase. Our USP (Unique Selling Proposition to you non-advertising folk) should be: “Minneapolis-Saint Paul: A Cold Omaha.”
The attitude we want to reinforce is the one that greeted my wife and me when we told our neighbors in northern Indiana we were moving back home to Minnesota. “You’re retiring NORTH?” came the refrain (this from residents of a region that gets more snow annually than the Twin Cities metro area).
We should keep quiet the experience of canoeing in Lake of the Isles at summer dusk and emphasize the lack of street crime in January. We should keep secret our park system and bike trails while educating prospective emigrants from places like Georgia and Texas about head-bolt heaters and hand-warmers. We should downplay our vibrant cultural life, and instead point up our unique positioning as a city where bridges fall down. Instead of touting our literacy, we should develop an entrance test that includes the ability to define terms like “galoshes,” “Alberta clippers,” and “Iowa.”
We should emphasize our defects. We have consistently disappointing professional sports teams, for example. We have one of the worst transportation infrastructures of any major U.S. city. We have a state government that would support public education entirely in a biennial bonding bill if they had the legislative votes. We have a Winter Carnival so popular it is on the edge of bankruptcy. We have one downtown almost bereft of retail and another tending that way. There are a number of things to our discredit that can feed a bad press.
One of our strong non-selling points is our weather. It has a range of temperature only matched by Siberia and a cast of skittish local television meteorologists who track potential blizzards all the way in from Oregon. We should tape these doomsayers every time they say “plowable” and blanket places like Nevada, Mississippi and South Carolina with DVD copies. At all costs we must not breathe a word of how Minnehaha Falls awakens to spring, how sailboats tack to summer breezes on 15,000 lakes or how the Mississippi River cuts through a russet gorge in autumn.
We got our work cut out for us in making the Twin Cities unattractive, but it can—and must—be done.
Richard Conklin is a retired university official who recently moved back to the Twin Cities after a 34-year absence.