Thursday, May 25, 2006

City Branding and Town Twinning

Norwich, where I'm spending a lot of time is "a fine city", according to many of the signs dotted around the place. As straplines go, that one pretty much sucks. However, to my mind, the artificial creation of such straplines is an idea so bad that it should be aborted as soon as it's spotted, even if that's not until the third trimester.

There are some places for which such things develop naturally and spontaneously. Blackpool: The Las Vegas of The North might be one of them. I don't have an issue with them, because they arose as a result of real people reaching a real consensus. I don't like PR wankers deciding to pretend that such a consensus has been reached, and then trying to force-feed their drivellous outpourings down my throat, in a desperate effort to justifying their existence by proving that they have "won mindshare" and "built the brand". It's a fucking city, for fuck's sake! Not a brand. A city! You know - people, cars, roads, streets, shops, houses, nice civic buildings, snotty-nosed chavs, and in the case of Norwich, an Aviva-owned building every few metres. Real things. Not some vague, fake, wanketty bollocks like a brand. Something real.

Neither am I hugely convinced of the merits of town twinning. It seems to me to be an excuse used by local councillers to piss off on tax payer funded holidays to "build rapport" with the "twinned towns".

Twins sometimes look very alike, and often have a very strong sibling bond because they are subject to the same influences - parental, familial and environmental. So how does this work with towns? Is Norwich really like Rouen, Koblenz, El Viejo or Novi Sad? I very much doubt it. And I'm even going to avoid the opportunity for snide remarkery that the last of those presents. Is each of those places "A Fine City", too? Somehow, I suspect not.

This kind of pervasive marketing nonsense often gets on my tits. Whilst I was living in Auckland the police adopted the strapline: "Safer communities together". What the fuck difference does that make when you come home to find your home has been burgled and some opportunistic cunt has made off with your very rare replica of the One Ring which was given to a friend of yours by Peter Jackson, and then ended up coming to you on your birthday? That was precious, that was! But hey: safer communities together.

On more than one occasion in my long waddle through corporate life, I have had the amusing experience of watching the internal PR people try to explain that the "core values" of the company were being revised - or in some cases completely rewritten - but that somehow this didn't mean that the original "core values" couldn't have been very "core" at all.

They can take their missions statements, straplines, tag lines, core values and ethical pillars and stick 'em where the sun don't shine.

15 comments:

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Gosh! What a rant.

And before I forget - Yay! I'm first!

Back to Norwich. It is a fine city, just not a Fine City.

Actually, that's about all I can muster at the moment. Hmmm...

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Oh yeah: Fuck off PR Wankers!

The Lady Muck said...

I myself have never myself been to Norwich but I did live in Oxford and Morse it ain't. Fuck off PR Wankers!

Excellent rant.

The Lady Muck said...

Well ok, some parts were abit Morse. But still...

Reluctant Nomad said...

What always puzzles me about this twinning malarky is how you can have more than one twin. I always thought that you only got a pair of them but it appears not when it comes to towns and cities.

Nottingham's strapline (a term I've not heard before) is 'the world's best city'. Um, I do like the place, but the best???

Tickersoid said...

You're pushing on an open door with me.
However, I did enjoy this rant, because I feel you're qualified to make it.
When I have such rants, which usually start with the phrase, 'Oh for fucks sake', I'm regarded as some kind of retard, not in tune with modern thinking.
I would have loved to have seen the core values explanation.

frobisher said...

Yes, yes, yes. You've hit the nail on the head. I had long suspected that twinning was just an excuse for a freebie "beano". Here in Bournemouth we are twinned with numerous towns including somewhere in Israel! How do they arrive at these decisions?

Straplines, tag lines, etc. are the curse of our time. Every fucker seems to have one "Investing in People" "Where Time is Nice" "Working for Communities" - vomits.

shiftclick said...

What I hate is when a small town identifies itself with somebody (supposedly) famous and worth being identified with. "Yukon, Home of Garth Brooks", as an example. DO we CARE? Garth moved out of there decades ago and took his money with him, the fucker. But I do believe several city water towers are still emblazoned with the city motto ... ::sigh::

Qenny said...

Oh, I love it when I catch the time ghost!

IDV: Norwich is indeed a fine city. I love the winding cobbled streets, the unique and individual shops, the distinct character and the comedy accent. I really do! However, I really don't think the "A Fine City" does it justice, and people are better off making up their own mind about a place. And of course, in some contexts, describing something as "fine" is similar to describing it as "not bad". Norwich - a not bad city. Hmm. Not sure that was the intent, but it is one possible interpretation.

mucky lady: I quite liked Oxford. Up until some skinheads I had been ogling at the ice rink turned out to be white supremacists. Never has cruise mode been so swiftly curtailed. But I'll agree, I didn't get much of a Morse feel from it. A little bit more from the surrounding shire, perhaps.

nomad: Someone pointed that out to me today, and it is a bit odd, isn't it. Actually, the colleague is question was suggesting that I write to the council and demand that the change the word "twinned" to "quinned", since it's Norwich plus four other towns.

tickers: I loved the expression "pushing on an open door", not least for it's rather suggestive overtones. Or maybe that's just my mucky mind. I tend to think that the folks who look down there noses at such rants and dismiss the ranters as out of touch are either gullible, stupid or to lazy to consider what's going on. I laugh at such people, because they squander money at the whim of marketing tossers, buy into all the "aspirational" bullshit, and end up feeling unsatisfied and hollow. And hell mend them!

frobisher: Where Time Is Nice??!! I'd never heard that one before! It's way up in the upper echelons of shiteness! I believe that some of the "twins" of Norwich are in countries that have since been broken up into little bits. Bosnia-Hertze-go-easycar and stuff.

shiftclick: "Home of Garth Brooks". What a claim! I think if I were the town planner, I'd call it "Yukon - Mentioned In Calvin & Hobbes". At least that would have a bit more longevity. I don't mind the little blue plaques we get around London telling us where someone famous and dead dropped their last turd, or whatever. But at least we don't name the towns along those lines. Although come to think of it, it might be fun if we did.

frobisher said...

"Where Time is Nice" is Poole, Dorset(alledgedly)- some bits ARE nice, but the rest reminds me of Basingstoke with a port, they even have a shopping centre called the Arndale Centre for Christs sake.

frobisher said...

Sorry, Ive just been informed the "Arndale Centre" was re-named the "Dolphin Centre" a couple of years ago.

I still dont want to go there.

Jay said...

Actually, Singapore is the official Fine City of the world - they've got fines for every single thing under the sun. Jaywalking, spitting, chewing gum... they even have t-shirts announcing this.

jungle jane said...

I fucking mate mission statements. they are all wank. the only adverts i enjoy watching for Sydney are around Mardi Gras time - i love that my city is promoted with a bunch of cute boys in assless chaps.

jungle jane said...

oh yeah - top post, qenny...

Qenny said...

frobisher: I LOVE the Arndale Centre. Well, I did until the IRA blew it up. I don't think I've been back since. But I've never been to the one in Poole. Even if it is called The Dolphin Friendly Tuna Centre.

jay: You can be fined just for walking in Singapore? (Well, not the rest of us, only your good self, obviously.)

jane: I must admit, I like those ads, too. Give me a gorgeous ozzie beach bum in backless chaps and I'll happily buy any old corporate claptrap you're selling.