A young business man sitting next to me on my flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia asked where I lived. I told him I was from Birmingham and he said he was from Philadelphia.
Then I asked…
“What comes to mind when you think of Birmingham?
“He said, “You have dirt roads, don’t you?”—then under his breath he muttered, “Probably not, huh?”
This brought back memories of when I was a child and my father visited relatives in New York City. He came home totally frustrated because he had been asked if people in Birmingham wore shoes.
Recently I heard a speech by Charles Barkley. He said when folks ask where he’s from, he always responds “Birmingham”—because no one’s ever heard of Leeds.
Many of us live in the suburbs, but people from out of state judge us as being from Birmingham.
After a Birmingham Chamber of Commerce trip to Nashville in 2005, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was excited about Nashville’s title as “Music City USA.”
He couldn’t wait to get home to clarify our Birmingham brand.
He commissioned an artist to draw a picture of a rabbit pulling a magician out of a hat with the caption, “Birmingham—the Magic City.”
Nothing came of this, but we have a problem owning that name anyway since eight other U.S. cities bill themselves as “The Magic City.”
Barberton, Ohio; Billings, Montana; Bogalusa, Louisiana; Florence, South Carolina; Miami, Florida; Minot, North Dakota; Roanoke, Virginia; and South Omaha, Nebraska
We must answer the question, how do we build a brand for ourselves?
The City of Birmingham represents only a small portion of the popultation of our metro area (only 19%). Birmingham alone probably shouldn’t make the branding decision. What about the other 81% who live outside the city?
Who should be empowered to make that decision? With so many municipalities and no common vision, who would be responsible?
Earlier this year UAB launched it’s first unified branding campaign, “Knowledge that will change your world”. Maybe Birmingham could build off that brand.
What do you think?
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).