SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Seattle's 'Branding' is A Great Big Ouch!
By Dave Kiffer


October 30, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - I see in the news that our good friends in Seattle are once again concerned about how they market themselves to the outside world. The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau has undertaken another "branding " campaign and have spent 16 months and two hundred thousand dollars to get a new "brand."

This is on the heels of another recent Northwest branding. Last year, the State of Washington decided it needed a new "brand" so it spent two hundred thousand dollars and nearly two years as well.

The statewide result - "SayWA" - was roundly panned but they valiantly stuck by it. At least until a few weeks ago, when it was quietly put out of its misery.

I was apparently one of the few people who wasn't totally cheesed off by "SayWa."

Don't get me wrong, I thought it was a stupid idea (you can imagine a serious case of "groupthink" around some conference table scratching their chins and saying 'yeah, you're right. That's not so bad.' Wrong.

I just liked the attempt. At least they tried something humorous rather than the usual overly "earnest" results that come out of most "branding" sessions. (If you don't believe me, ask a steer!)

Wow, that was a serious digression! I started off talking about Seattle and jumped all the way to SayWa!

Anyway, Seattle apparently didn't want to feel left out, so it started throwing money at consultants and interviewing local folks who apparently never read "The Emperor's New Clothes."

The result (I'd say drum roll please, but I think this is more of cymbal crash) is "Metronatural."

"SayWA, you say?"

"Metronatural." It just slips off the tongue doesn't it? The rule of thumb (rule of tongue?) for a slogan is that it should be catchy. "What Happens in Vegas Stays In Vegas" remains the gold standard in that count and compared to that "Metronatural" is somewhat, uhhh, somewhat clunky.

Okay, so it's a little difficult to say (particularly with a straight face). But at least the meaning is clear, right?

Maybe not. When I first saw it in the a headline, I thought a new urban nudist camp had opened up in Seattle Center (the slogan was painted on the roof of the Space Needle).

But then I realized that most of the folks I have seen walking around Seattle Center should probably remain clothed (except for that supermodel training workshop I noticed taking place in the Center House a few years back, but that's another column).

Fortunately, I read on in the story in the Seattle Times and I learned that "Metronatural" was meant to combine Seattle's cosmopolitan "advantages" with its "natural" setting. Voila!

Ignoring for a minute that Seattle's cosmopolitan "advantages" include taking four hours to drive 30 miles on I-5 to get to any of the "natural" setting, I can still see what they were getting at, sort of.

On one hand, they were trying to cash in on British Columbia's success with "Supernatural" a few years back. And they were also trying to cash in on another word that very briefly was "in" a couple of years back "metrosexual" which was meant to describe an urbane sort of urban man who bought an awful lot of skin care products.

The problem is that in the constantly changing world of brand awareness, both those ideas are - to quote my niece Courtney on an entirely different subject - "So two years ago!"

I mean, after all, does that mean they assume that every time I visit Seattle, I will be expected to spend most of my time on the main floor of Nordstrom's getting spritzed (I do that anyway, but that definitely is another column!)?

I certainly want to smell my best when some brown bear it chasing me down the slopes of Mt. Rainer but how do I know if a skin care product or fragrance has been approved by the National Park Service?

(For the record, brown bear sitings on Mt. Rainier are usually discounted by the park rangers, but maybe grizzlies would start to repopulate the area if we just smelled better!)

What I'm still a little puzzled by, is whether or not calling Seattle "Metronatural" is going to "bring the business" that the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau thinks it will. It's hard to imagine the International Society of Proctologists sitting around a conference table exclaiming "Metronatural? Wow, let's go there instead of Las Vegas in 2008!"

You're probably also wondering how "Metronatural" is supposed to jibe with the unofficial name of Seattle, "The Emerald City."

I'm glad you asked. It doesn't really.

The "branding" slogan is not supposed to replace the town nickname. For example in Ketchikan, "Our Lifestyle, Your Reward" is not supposed to supplant "The Salmon Capital (Capitol?) of the World."

What it does supplant is Seattle's previous attempt at a "Destination Brand Position" 1999's See-At- L.. The See was depicted as an "eye", the at was depicted with an "at" symbol and the L was depicted, well, with an "L."

If that made you want to pack up and bring your convention to Seattle, then "Metronatural" probably will too.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2006

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