Cape got a bargain six years ago.
I came to this realization, while reading an article in the May 7 Wall Street Journal detailing the woes of Providence, Rhode Island.
Providence has been hit hard by the souring economy and has a jobless rate exceeding 11%. But rather than trying to drum up new businesses or work with existing local companies to keep jobs, the town's Mayor decided that the real reason behind his city's decline was that Providence had an image problem. It needed a marketing makeover.
So he plunked down $100,000 from the city's coffers to hire a marketing firm to re-brand the city. But instead of spending those hard-earned local tax dollars in the Providence metropolitan area of 1.6 million people, he chose to hire Nashville, Tennessee based North Star Destination Strategies to help re-brand his city.
That company's solution to Providence's apparent inferiority complex was to use a capital P.
That's right, just an uppercase letter P. Well to be fair it is a stylized uppercase letter P and is meant to be show everyone that Providence is "The Creative Capital." Get it? Providence is the capital of Rhode Island.
However, I guess none of the numerous local advertising and marketing professionals or graphic designers who live and work in the Providence metropolitan area are creative enough to have thought of using the letter P to promote their town, much less a stylized P.
So how does a stylized P promoting a city in a state that many Midwesterners would probably have a hard time finding on a map, have anything to do with Cape Girardeau?
It's quite simple. Back in the summer of 2003, Cape used the exact same Nashville marketing company that dreamed up our excruciatingly lame slogan "Where the River Turns a Thousand Tales."
However, while Providence forked over a hundred grand for their stylized letter P, Cape spent only $42,000. We got 40 letters -- counting spaces and the period -- for our investment.
That works out to a little more than a grand a letter. Meanwhile Providence paid 100 times that for their single character. Suckers. Yes, I would say that Cape got a bargain.
If you can't tell, I've never been a big fan of our town's slogan -- even if we got a great deal on it. I guess no one at this Nashville marketing firm considered its close resemblance to the well-known phrase "turning tail" which means to run away in fright. In my opinion, the variation of "turning tale" that we use is not a very positive sounding phrase, and likely not effective at promoting tourism to our city.
Oh sure, it's unique, all right, but who would want to visit a town where a bunch of scaredy cats lived?
But you know, who am I to judge? I just live here. I never think about visiting Cape. That's what out-of-town consulting firms are for. They bring perspective.
And according to a case study about our city's branding on the North Star Destination Strategies website, our little slogan has been pretty successful.
"Since the brand's inception in 2003 hotel and motel receipts have increased an estimated 30%," their website proclaims about our slogan.
In another part of the case study it noted that "visitation as measured by hotel stays increased more than 30% in 6 years."
Wow, both of those 30% increases sound like a lot.
I do have to wonder if they know the difference between "receipts" and "stays." They're not mutually inclusive.
According to an article in the November 19, 2005 issue of the Southeast Missourian, area hotel rates jumped 20 percent in the previous one-year period. Kind of makes you think that our city's slogan had less to do with either of those 30% overall increases than local supply and demand.
It was also during this same time period that the number of hotel rooms in Cape Girardeau was dramatically reduced when the old Holiday Inn was torn down in the fall of 2003. Overnight, 188 local hotel rooms disappeared. The new Holiday Inn Express -- and its 102 rooms -- wasn't completed until nearly two years later in June 2005.
And in the last 6 years the region has weathered some pretty nasty natural disasters. I wonder how many hotel rooms were occupied by locals who were without power for days on end?
Or what about all of the out-of-town utility company workers who descended on our region during those crises? They had to stay somewhere.
I don't think either of those groups really cared about how our city was being branded. They just wanted a warm bed to sleep in.
I suppose that depending on what numbers North Star is comparing or how they are crunching them, it is not inaccurate to claim that local hotel stays and/or receipts increased by 30% in the past six years. They probably have.
I just doubt the slogan had much to do with it. And while I personally don't care for it, and think it is ineffective and was a waste of taxpayer dollars, at least we got more than a single letter.
What a bargain.