Stop Pretending You’re From Here

More than ever, it’s hard to escape a major corporate ad, whether they’re hocking phones or milkshakes, shout from display ads and billboards alike, “Yo Philly! (insert the big sell here).”

Talk about laziness. As if anyone in the 215 area code – or in any city – will all of a sudden fall in love with a brand because said brand is speaking the perceived language of the people. I guess I should be happy these mediocre market-eers didn’t introduce something else Rocky-esque to really bring the point home. Perhaps a hot dog running up the Art Museum steps, or little Red Bulls rowing a scull up the Schuylkill River.

It makes me wonder who approved these, what was the thought behind it, and are they really that stupid? Or do they believe that the general public will suddenly be bowled over with emotion that some can of soup really understands the city in all of its nuances.

Speaking of nuances, if any brand and it’s positioning dictates the importance of endearing itself to a city, might I suggest a few simple steps:

  1. Research it. And by this, I don’t mean Wikipedia. I mean visit the place for Bill Penn’s sake! What are the lesser known qualities or characteristics that make up a city? Get to the heart of it and give the brand some of that soul.
  2. Test it. Throw some people from the city into a room and ask some questions. Do they feel as if the brand is part of the fabric of what makes a town tick? Or does it feel a little too “Yo Philly” and therefore actually diluting the brand?
  3. Live it. Sure, advertising – whether pre-roll or billboards – can be part of a campaign, but what’s happening at the grass roots level? Yelling Philly-isms at passerby isn’t doing much beyond being annoying. But getting into the source of city pride and leveraging it in a way that actually feels like a true part of a region – and being consistent with it – might win over some new fans.

So I implore you, corporate brands! Whether a beer company that wants to throw a professional sports team logo on your cans to gain favor, or a tech product using the favored term for the city – to get it together. We know you’re not from here, and the hollow attempt at masquerading your brand as one of us in the worst way possible is doing more harm than good.

Think about that jawn next time you want to be something you’re not, yo.

– P. Madden, Top Cat