Thursday, May 12, 2011

Other Views on the Below

I continued to follow the Buffalo rebranding story after my comment last night, and I'm pleased to see that many others are recognizing it as terrible, if for somewhat different reasons. There is an excellent tearing-down of it at WNY Media. The article is very thorough and well-thought out, despite not addressing the major issue that I expressed about it in my post yesterday.

The WNY Media piece also brings up a small meme that spread over Twitter in response to the press release, using the hash tag buffslogan to suggest satirical alternative brands for the city. Scrolling through those posts turns up a handful of real winners, like:

“Buffalo: Your city’s unemployment is low because of our people.”

“Buffalo: Come see what the rest of the country is laughing at.”

“The city that never wakes.”

“Buffalo: You come for the wings. You leave shortly afterwards!”

“You’re always fifteen minutes from being fifteen minutes further away from here.”

“Buffalo: Coming soon.”

“Buffalo: We’re here, fuck it.”

And there’s definitely something to be said for this contribution: “But seriously, Buffalo, no one cares what your slogan is. They just want to not be sad as a result of their visit.”

The satirical treatment of this topic also came in the form of a sendup of the video that came out alongside the unveiling of the brand. The video at that link makes some very amusing comments, but ultimately I feel that it gets away from itself as it goes on. Still, it’s really nice to see anyone doing satire about Buffalo, because laughter really is a wonderful way to address problems.

I remember that when I had just discovered Mike Polk’s absolutely brilliant Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Videos, I searched for Buffalo on Youtube, wondering if anyone had attempted similar satire of this similarly crumbling rust belt town. What I found instead was several doting tribute videos, many of them emphasizing Buffalo’s sports fandom as an admirable feature of the city’s very character, and as something that proved it to be a great place to live. But it has long been my feeling that sports fanaticism is a direct side-effect of living in a faded, downtrodden place. Knowing that there isn’t much else to be proud of or to hope for, you channel all of your hope and positive spirit into the performance of sports teams. But that’s just another form of self-delusion.

Apparently a couple of radio personalities on Buffalo’s sports talk station WGR devoted a sizable portion of their air time this morning to the discussion of the video that Visit Buffalo Niagara had released, which they derided for its failure to mention either the Bills or the Sabres. Now, granted these are sports talk guys, so as a rule, that is all they think about, but still this is a truly asinine complaint. As terrible as the For Real campaign is, that’s the one place where it’s got it right. Buffalo needs to put focus on different things – things that don’t strike us with the knee-jerk reaction of stadium excitement – in order to broaden its appeal beyond the reach of people who actually live here. Nobody’s going to travel to Buffalo, NY to see an NFL or NHL game. They can do that at home or in a city with more to offer besides.

Tragically, though, Buffalo is the sort of place where some very vocal people, though complaining about something that has certainly earned criticism, will attack it from exactly the wrong angle. The WGR personalities, and no doubt many other locals, look at a very bad piece of creative marketing, and decide that what’s wrong with it is that it is too high-brow, too distant from the familiar. The last thing we need is to keep on channeling our energy through the same useless outlets.

Buffalonians need to come to a breaking point in their understanding of what they’re up against, but some of them have much farther to go than others. Despite all of my criticisms, I’ll say this for Visit Buffalo Niagara: at least they’re actually trying something new. They just fucked it up, that’s all.

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