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How The World Wags

Branding Ketchikan
By Dave Kiffer


September 05, 2004

The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau is conducting a "branding" campaign in order to come up with a way to better market Ketchikan to visitors. This process does sound rather painful, but it does make sense because the visitor industry has supplanted other industries as the engine of the local economy. As much as we like to say Ketchikan is a "working" community, the only real work we seem to be doing lately is for the benefit of those who want to come here to see us "work."
jpg Dave Kiffer Ketchikan, Alaska

I'm not sure if a "slogan" will be part of the final branding, but it's clear that "Salmon Capitol of the World" is no longer appropo and really hasn't been since the days when 13 canneries spread the smell of money up and down the local waterfront.

If this were the 1960s, we'd come up with something cute, something that indicates we have a lot to do here, something like "betcha-can in Ketchi-kan." But I can already see the branding experts turning their noses up at this. Not trendy enough, certainly not high concept, definitely not "edgy."

A couple of years ago the company that "envisioned" the name True for the Sitka water bottler won a national branding award. "True" of course didn't indicate anything about Alaska or bottled water and that's probably why sales have been really slow. It also didn't help that Budweiser was using the word "True" for its national ad campaign at the same time. But it was high concept and I'm sure the "branding" company got paid before the bottler went into its first bankruptcy reorganization.

There is no question that a good slogan can help your community image. New York is "The Big Apple" and Paris is "The City of Light." Either slogan is immediately identifiable. Las Vegas recently decided to turn its back on a decade of Disneyfication and unveiled "Las Vegas: What Happens Here, Stays Here." That tells you just about everything you need to know.

On the other hand, Atlanta unveiled its "Capital of the New South" slogan about the time that one of its biggest corporate residents Coca-Cola debuted "New Coke." Both of those debuts fizzled.

Anyway, back to Ketchikan. I can't even begin to "envision" a good high concept "branding" for the Ketchikan area that doesn't involve a campfire and really hot irons. Guess I'll just have to "shift my paradigms" into a lower gear.

"Ketchikan: Tanzanite Capital of the World" seems logical, but even though we are stumbling toward a summer-only economy, don't we want to at least give lip service to the idea that people still live and work here year round?

It took dreamers and doers to carve this community out of the wilderness but "Ketchikan: Think Big or Don't Think At All" is probably a little to esoteric for someone staring at brochures in Cleveland.

Then again, maybe, I'm just trying too hard. In June, when we had that week of 80 plus temps, I was standing on a downtown corner waiting for the crossing guards to signal safe crossing. A woman walked up to the curb. She looked up toward the Welcome Arch and the shimmering summit of Deer Mountain. "Ketchikan," she said outloud. "Wow."

That's a "True" story.


Dave Kiffer ©2004


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