Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Huggable North" Ad Hoc Branding Effort Launched...

Photo By John Hoff

Collier White, a resident of Hawthorne, has launched a little North Minneapolis "branding effort" on Facebook, dubbing our neighborhood "Huggable North." His "Huggable North" logo features a snarling pit bull, which Collier explained he sees as a "lighting rod" of discussion about social issues in North Minneapolis.

"Up here," he said. "Your choice of what breed of dog to own can be a political statement."

And I was all, like, "Just the dog? Oh, my word. What kind of booze you drink--high quality stuff or Steel Reserve swill. That's political. Whether you walk on the sidewalk or down the middle of the street. Whether you take care of your yard or let it go to hell. All these things are very political, and there is a major class struggle taking place about which ways of living will dominate."

Notably, Collier's dog "Frederic" is NOT a pit bull, despite the image on his "Huggable North" logo. Collier is pictured with his dog, above.

Collier recently had an informal meet-and-greet at his house to publicize "Huggable North," and I attended this event, where I had a substantive, friendly back-and-forth about Collier's branding idea....

Here is what Collier says about "Huggable North."

"It's official. North's Huggability is on the rise. In five years, many North newcomers will want to claim North cred, saying, "I was in North before it was cool." They will not want us to know that they followed the trend rather than helping to create it. But we don't mind. We are Huggable North, and one thing is that you don't have to be cool."

I have to admit that, at first, I didn't care for Collier's idea. For one thing, I saw it as just a minor Facebook joke, not really a "branding effort." A branding effort requires some "oomph," cranking out internet content, stickers, M & Ms emblazoned with the words "GET TO NOMI." That's a branding effort, yet it's still small, ad hoc, not quite enough to make the kind of dent we need to make in the media's framework of "North Minneapolis as an urban dystopian theme park."

Also, a snarling pit bull on the "Huggable North" logo? Why on earth would I want a picture of a snarling pit bull and the words "Huggable North?" Why don't I just promulgate a logo of a chronic inebriate sitting on the Merwin's Butt Fence and under the phrase "Laid Back North?" I have my own well-publicized theory of Northside marketing called "Market And Romanaticize The Struggle," and it can be found, discussed in detail, on this blog.

However, in talking to Collier, I began to see how some aspect of marketing may be missing from my theory of "Market and Romanticize The Struggle." And that aspect might be described as "Celebrate The Eclectic Funk." Sure, I've already been DOING THAT with posts like the one about the guy and his Ford Fairlane woody, but I hadn't formally incorporated "funk celebration" into my marketing theory. And I care about the theoretical. A professor of mine used to say, "Sometimes the most practical thing you can have is a good theory to operate under."

Besides, until the Northside Marketing Task Force begins to, oh gee, what is the word? MARKET?! Until the Northside Marketing Task Force begins to MARKET Northside, you're going to have folks like Collier White just leaping into the fray and saying nobody is marketing North Minneapolis, so hey, we'll just do it on our own!

But, yes, I could agree with Collier, to a degree. We live in a neighborhood full of artsy, interesting people who are unafraid to be themselves. That can be MARKETED. During this period of time while we push out crime and decay, we have an exciting little edge of danger, and some adventurous folks are attracted to that, especially combined with the factor of classic 100-year-old houses available for pennies on the dollar. These are the kind of people who CREATE rather than FOLLOW trends.

Let us keep appealing to such personalities. Just hearing Collier articulate that "trend thing" is very encouraging.

So, to a mix that is already eclectic, one can add yet more funk:


Which, I would assert, is a minor moment on Facebook and doesn't really have meaningful existance unless it has some "oomph" behind it. But will I write about it? Oh, yeah, it's in North Minneapolis and so it's something I'll write about, especially when I went to somebody's lovely social gathering and accepted free booze.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you know where I can grab up a Huggable North tee or sticker?
As a 5 year N side veteran and not planning on going anywhere soon, I am always looking to plug my 'hood (after years of break-ins, shoot-outs and foreclosures and still going strong on the 1300 block o' Upton I feel I've finally earned the right to call it "mine!")

The fact is, I love this place after all, and whatever I can do to encourage it's appreciation and to make our streets a little safer, that's all I ask. We can talk about gentrification and trendiness and all that for hours, but for me it comes down to wanting our N side babies to be safe.

Nice blog! I'm glad I found it!