When you think of Baltimore

November 10, 2005

Apparently, Baltimore needs a brand. It might hurt. The people in charge of promoting conventions and tourism here looked around and said to themselves, "We have to brand this place. We have to wrestle it to the ground and stick it with a hot iron." They're going to spend $500,000 of the city's money doing it. But neither the hot iron nor the dollars will be what hurts. All the inevitable jokes - that's where the pain will come in.

Baltimore: Etc., etc. Ha, ha. Who can resist?

Actually, Baltimore already has a brand - or, to be precise, Baltimore already is a brand. A commercial website says: "80% of the Russians associate the word `ketchup' with `Baltimor.'" Who knew? There's a condiment company by that name (derived from the Russian words for Baltic Sea) and its exports to the English-speaking world carry a final, and beautiful, silent "e."

Baltimore: It's Slow and Gloopy and Goes with French Fries.

No, no. A brand is not a mere slogan. A brand is a re-positioning. And it's aimed at out-of-towners. So you wouldn't say something like: Baltimore is where the Light Rail and Metro cross paths, but don't really know each other, socially. Or: Baltimore is all about, "Where did you go to high school?" Or: Baltimore is a place where it shouldn't snow.

No. The brand has to say: Come to Baltimore and don't be thrifty. A brand has to be about one big thing (preferably not ketchup). This may be a city of 600,000 interesting stories, but a brand can't be so complicated. Baltimore: It's What's Here.

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