Selling the city without a slogan

William Pate has decided to move beyond a question that has gone without a good answer for decades: How should Atlanta brand itself?

William Pate

William Pate

As CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Pate knows that despite several attempts, no marketing campaign for the city has captured the imagination for many years. The last attempt, “Every day is an opening day,” may have been DOA. (For the record, former Mayor William Hartsfield popularized the phrase, “the city too busy to hate,” which was not a marketing campaign.)

So Pate, who has been in the marketing game for 27 years, has turned a traditional approach on its head. Instead of figuring out the overarching theme or slogan first, he’s leaving that for last as he tries to generate tourism dollars in a rough economy. One stat: Visitation for the $11 billion hospitality industry was 35.4 million in 2008 – down from 38 million in 2006, the latest figures show.

To try to turn that around, Pate, 49, has been focusing on two other parts of selling the city since taking the helm of ACVB a year ago. The first is to promote the attractions, hotels, shopping and dining. The second is to work with those businesses, so they offer discount packages with others.

“Momentum drives markets,” Pate said. “You’ve got to build momentum by constantly barraging people with new news.”

But what’s new to one group is not to another. For example, some meeting planners – key people in this business – know about the recent upgrades to the Centennial Olympic Park area, such as the fish tank and Coke museum.

Other meeting planners, however, have not visited the city for years. So the ACVB has to bring that group up to date. At the same time, it has to focus on upcoming attractions with the former group, including the College Football Hall of Fame and the Center for Human and Civil Rights.

That same education has to be done with out-of-town families discussing where to take their next vacation.

In all cases, Pate faces three hurdles. First, people instantly know what they’re getting when you mention Orlando, Las Vegas or New Orleans. That’s less true for Atlanta.

Second, even if Atlanta had a slogan, Pate would need a good bit more money than he currently has to promote it like it should be. He knows $2.9 million – the cost of just one 30-second Super Bowl commercial – is not enough to market Atlanta on an annual basis.

“We continue to look for additional revenue sources,” he said.

Finally, Atlanta does need a branding campaign. It’s not optional. “Cities that brand now will stand out,” Tim Calkins of Northwestern University told AJC reporter Leon Stafford.

Pate says surveys repeatedly show that visitors are impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the people here. So Southern hospitality does exist, despite all the transplants, including me.

“Ultimately, we will find that stake in the ground,” Pate said. “It will take some time.”

I hope not too long. To speed the process, if you have a good idea that captures Pate’s friendliness theme, please post it below. Since the pros haven’t come up with the right prose yet, maybe you can.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

139 comments Add your comment

ihorizon

February 9th, 2010
7:44 am

To brand Atlanta, I have an idea for a commercial envisioning this: A traveler is in an airport looking at departure flights and decides to gets on a DELTA flight to Atlanta. He arrives to Atlanta and as the traveler is leaving the airport he stops by a counter and grabs a COKE and CHIK-FIL-A sandwich from a vendor. Traveler walks out of airport to a car which is a a brand new 2010 KIA which he drives from the airport. He driving the interstate and sees the signs overhead to Turner Field (Atlanta Braves) and ZOO Atlanta, and an Atlanta Bread Company billboard. He then sees a sign directing to the Centennial Olympic park. As he is walking in the park, he is eyeing the skyline of trying to decide which museum to visit first: Georgia Aquarium, Coke museum, High Museum and all the historical places. He starts walking with a smile (and maybe a COKE still in his hand from the airport). He realizes he made the right choice to visit Atlanta. The commercial ends with the slogon: Atlanta – Have you visited us yet? Basically the idea is to use the companies of Atlanta as its own billboard.

Nono

February 9th, 2010
7:47 am

Atlanta has problems that slogans won’t fix: it’s NOT a walkable city (and by walkable I don’t mean friendly to the inconsiderate, idiotic jaywalkers who make downtown a human obstacle course), its downtown is NOT a destination for even the people who live here (so why would visitors want to come?), and the downtown is just nondescript and dingy–even the fountains that are supposed to beautify it in some cases don’t work or aren’t turned on. Woodruff Park could be a beautiful area and instead it’s full of bums and you can’t even walk on the grass. Fix these problems, give Atlanta a vibrant, strong city core and you won’t need slogans to get people here.

Nativebird

February 9th, 2010
7:54 am

Drop the Rap-crap “the Atl” non-sense and people will come.

Ward

February 9th, 2010
8:07 am

This is NOT a tourist town. The only real draw we have is the GWCC, so do whatever you have to to keep conventions and trade shows coming there.

outspoken1

February 9th, 2010
8:10 am

I wonder if our visitors realize how grateful we are to be the hometown of all of these large companies.
I remember going to St. Louis once and there was no doubt that they made beer in St Louis.
I think when you stand back and look at all the different companies that call Atlanta home. I think that you will see a city that should be built around fun.
Not go out to a bar, get drunk and get jacked up for your money at a strip joint fun.
I mean fun fun. I am all for putting Casino’s in Underground.
What fun, you come to Atlanta for your convention and it offers everything you could hope to find outside of your meetings and training.
Everyone wants to go where it is fun.
Get rid of the pan handlers. If I were a visitor that would be my impression of Atlanta.
I hope this new administration gets a real handle on the violance downtown.
We want the world to see us as fun and progressive.
We have to remember that Atlanta is only an airplane ride from anywhere in this world.
It is time to grow up and be the best host we can be…

Stanley P.

February 9th, 2010
8:18 am

Like your idea, ihorizon.

Also, agree that Atlanta needs to address some “issues” …crime, panhandling, etc.

oldtimer

February 9th, 2010
8:18 am

There is nothing to do downtown and no way to get anywhere else safely. Other tourist towns have wonderful, family-friendly downtown areas. I have had more “fun” and better downtown food in nashvill, Louisville, Denver. San Diego…just to name a few. There is no shopping of any quality. You must go to the burbs. And the bums are more aggressive than anywhere other than Memphhis.

rwh

February 9th, 2010
8:26 am

First, Atlanta is very confusioning. People come here and drive right through Down-Town-Atlanta…and asked where is Atlanta? The various counties surrounding the heart of Atlanta is never mentioned so people really don’t know Atlanta. I am confused myself and have live here since 1998. To sale Atlanta…you have to briefly tell people that Atlanta consist of the Georgia Dome; World Congress-Center, The Coke Musuem, Phillip Arena; CNN, the Acqurieum, King Center, the Centinal and the Fox Theather Sweet-Aurburn and give them the names of the famous streets. Becuse so much happen that is not center around the streets, but directly focus on the name (Atlanta) are not telling people the names determine that you are physically in Atlanta. Image is everything; people do not want to be associated with a city that experience with so much of crime; thus, finding other cities to go and spend their time. A city that is wide-and-diverse make’s things complicated so people find certain place to go and spend their time. Take New Orleans..it is a city that everybody knows and can identify with with. Going there and upon arrival, you know you are there. So, if we want to sale the city of Atlanta…you would have to think about the images you want people to see and not just hear about. “IMAGE”, ITS EVERYTHING!

It is what it is...

February 9th, 2010
8:26 am

I think it’s a little bit too late. Everyone across the US pretty much knows that Atlanta is the new ghetto-fab mecca now. Anyone can watch BET to Bravo to see that. I was on MARTA yesterday and there were about six black guys with all their pants hanging off “the you know what” heading towards Lenox to probably scope out a store in Buckhead. With that said, there were two white ppl from out of state with their luggage and just the look on their faces looking at these guys.. I felt really embarrassed for everybody.

Cheryl

February 9th, 2010
8:29 am

Atlanta needs to also get a handle on the “crime” in the city. When I am trying to “sell” the city, people seem to be more aware about the “30-Deep Gang” than they do about the happenings of the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coke, etc.

MediaMoxxie

February 9th, 2010
8:36 am

I am not trying to put additional pressure on MARTA, they have enough to deal with these days…however, I have been saying for the last few years that there needs to be an EXPRESS MARTA train that goes from the Airport directly to Peachtree Center NON-STOP. The images that you see traveling from the airport on the way to Five Points is an EMBARRASMENT for those who are new or visiting the city.

The train should stop at Peachtree Center, Midtown, Arts Center, Buckhead, etc…this will get out of town business people and conventioneers to their destinations more swiftly and efficiently.

MediaMoxxie

February 9th, 2010
8:37 am

ihorizon, your idea/concept is good.

John Nickle

February 9th, 2010
8:37 am

Atlanta… some people come to play… some come to pass through and stay. Don’t you wish every day was a sunny Atlanta day?

I came here 30 years ago, a preachers kid. Moved and moved and moved and came to Atlanta and stayed. …and what a stay it’s been…

What we are looking for here are answers.

We need a web “blitz” of Atlanta. There should not be a great restaurant unshown… ever see the Indian mound? Been to Dunoway Gardens to throw a frisbee? Walked Mount Arabia? Explored the old waterworks? Seen the Indigo Girls for three bucks at the Little 5 Points Community Pub? Have you ever walked through Oakland Cemetary… just before dark?

Have you ever had a chocolate raspberry martini at the Sundial? What do you remember more, the martini, the view, or the elevator ride up? Weeeeeeee!

Ever “catch a coke” at the Coke museum? See naked statues at the High? Listened to music in one of those “musical” venues?

Branding Atlanta will be easy… and I mean “great” branding. Brand on the web and “they will come…”

I have the cameras, the video equipment, the video editor. I have a high resolution panoramic camera that is just too cool and can capture images for disk at over 1 gig of resolution while I can take the same photo down to under 100k for the web… “a” zooms in… “z” zooms out. Clickable links can be put in with java so people on the web will not have to download any special viewer to see and manipulate the images.

The video production software allows for me to combine photos and videos with transitions and background music. I know lots of local music artists, so we could either adopt local color with authorization or I can create my own using the computer.

We create, upload and shotgun out to the web via ALL venues available to us… most being free…

Post “Re-discover Atlanta” links at all local news websites, with their permission. Post “Re-discover Atlanta” links in the local web papers as well as the grocery store websites, realtor.com, homes.com and apartment finder webpages and magazines.

If we show them what we have to offer… they will come.

I have one of the best photography/photoshop assistants in the world. I have done work outside of Atlanta over the years including for Barcello Hotels in Costa Rica and a shoot for the original owners of the Creative Loafing done on Tybee Island. Last time I saw the Cyclorama, I was on a field trip in the seventh grade. I am now 47 and would like to see it again… with my panoramic camera… in hi-def.

I have been in real estate in Atlanta for over 20 years, so I know my way around and I should be able to clear ample time for the project, as I am a real estate agent here in Atlanta… :o )

It would help you, it would help me, it would help the tourist market, it would help the real estate market, both commercial and residential. It would allow me to get my “artistic” yayas out.

Give me a buzz…

We can do lunch…

I know of a great place just around the corner…

Let me show it to you!!

John Nickle

blazerdawg

February 9th, 2010
8:38 am

What makes Atlanta unique are the people, the geography and climate.

Atlanta is known as a good time town that is cleaner/safer than New Orleans and more interesting/historical than Charlotte.

Just becasue our leadership cannot clean-up downtown does not mean that ATL is not a great destination. VaHi, Little 5, Midtown and Buckhead have some of the best dining, shopping, parks and entertainment in the country, all in a unique southern setting. Distinct and diverse neighborhoods that represent the people, culture, and geography of Atlanta make the city unique from single destination cities. Do not market ATL like New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville with their single entertainment districts. Do market ATL like NY, Paris, LA; cities that feature many destination alternatives.

John Nickle

February 9th, 2010
8:42 am

Some people… you put them in a room full of toys and they won’t play with them cause then they would break…

Others, you could put them in a room full of horse hockey and they would be digging around with thier hands because they are sure that a pony is in here somewhere…

Look at the upside people!

Today, I choose to dig for the pony!

Seattle Event Planner

February 9th, 2010
8:57 am

As an event planner for a major non-profit association from Seattle, when planning our quaterly out-of-town conventions, I had always listed Atlanta in my “Top 5″ list of contenders. However, with the last several respondent/vote reports from our staff, Atlanta has dropped down on our contender list for the following reasons:

No diverse eating establishments available to conventioneers along downtown Peachtree Street after 7:00p.m.

Complaints that Peachtree Center foodcourt “dies” after 7:00p.m. — conventioneers do not feel safe traveling downtown to other food destinations after hours

Complaints that there is “no-shopping” on Peachtree Street (downtown) — the question constantly asked, “What happened to Macy’s?”

Downtown convention attendees complained that traveling to to “Lenox/Buckhead” for shopping was not convenient.

Since many conventioneers select downtown hotels for their accomodations and travel from the airport via MARTA — that there needs to be greater visibility/signage of downtown hotels (i.e., Hilton, Marriot, etc.) in the Peachtree Center MARTA station.

With all the above being said, I still think Atlanta is a great city — just needs to work out some issues.

iRun

February 9th, 2010
8:58 am

I think ihorizon is onto something…but I’d go for showing someone having to spend a long layover in Atlanta (say 6-8 hours) and deciding to jump on MARTA and check out the city.

Only I would only show a little of downtown. I mean, honestly, downtown isn’t all there is. Have the guy get off at the Inman Park station and walk through the Inman Park festival. Have him get off at the Candler Park station and wander along PATH in Freedom Park, with all the cyclists streaming past and the gorgeous view of the skyline in the background. In another commercial, have him get off at the Lenox station.

Some of the comments here paint a depressing and plastic picture of Atlanta. Thing is…I live here, in the city (Candler Park neighborhood, to be exact), and what I see doesn’t match that depressing, desolate picture. It’s beautiful here, with plenty of things to do that I CAN WALK TO. Atlanta SO is a walkable city. As a resident I am frequently a pedestrienne (I even run to work).

T.A.

February 9th, 2010
8:58 am

After reading some of the comments of people on this blog, exactly why do you live in Atlanta or the metro area if everything that you have to say is negative? Honestly, no city is perfect- not even New York City, where I used to live, is perfect. You people who are negatively commenting are not answering the question that was posed by Mr. Unger.

I’m sure that ACVB is focusing on everything positive about the city, such as the new attractions Downtown. However, the ACVB should find ways to advertise the vibrant and artistic Midtown district, the upscale Buckhead, and the trendy neighborhoods such as Little Five Points and Poncey Highlands. Furthermore, consider advertising the green space that is available such as Piedmont Park and Grant Park. Perhaps the ACVB can also find a way to demonstrate that Atlanta has room for growth to attract young professionals to the city.

The important part of all of this is to show that the city is diverse, open to all, and has amenities and things to do that are comparable to other cities. Since the ACVB is trying to get people of all walks of life to visit and hopefully stay in the city, they will need to find ways to show that the culture of the city is diverse. If something is lacking, I would suggest the ACVB collaborate with City Council members and the mayor in plugging that hole.

Seattle Event Planner

February 9th, 2010
8:58 am

I also second MediaMoxxie’s idea for an express MARTA train from the airport — conventioneers would love that!

Cheryl

February 9th, 2010
9:05 am

Think You Know Atlanta?…Take A Look At Us Now!

Pete

February 9th, 2010
9:07 am

Let’s make the official song of Atlanta “Here Comes The Rain Again” by the Eurythmics since all it ever does is rain in this freakin’ place. Visually, we should use thug rappers to promote the city. Like the cover of the latest Rolling Stone magazine with Lil’ Wayne on the cover. If that cover and article doesn’t make you proud to live in Atlanta, I don’t know what will!

Seriously people, Atlanta sucks. As soon as the economy improves and I am able to sell my house and find a job elsewhere, I am outta here!

Seattle Event Planner

February 9th, 2010
9:09 am

I love that, Cheryl! Now that would definitely get my attention.

Lori

February 9th, 2010
9:09 am

Everyone keeps mentioning the big stuff, like the museums and dome, etc. but a lot of the cool stuff in and around Atlanta is not downtown. Atlanta is very much about urban sprawl, so there are tons of festivals and events that happen outside the city limits. There needs to be a way to tie these things together, so folks from all over Atlanta can find out about events outside their immediate community (other than Access Atlanta, cause I don’t find it that useful). No one has mentioned Stone Mountain either, that’s an excellent family attraction. Little 5 is great too, Buckhead, etc. There are tons of great locations around town. But tourists can’t really walk all over the city, nor are they going to want to hop on a MARTA bus, so unless they have a car they are limited to what’s around their hotel. We really need a world class public transportation system. MARTA is pathetic.

Lynn Roberts

February 9th, 2010
9:13 am

Atlanta has so many diverse attractions — however, it is too complicated to get to them — the city is too disconnected. Every community wants to be its own “island.”

MediaMoxxie

February 9th, 2010
9:14 am

Leslie

February 9th, 2010
9:27 am

The Atlanta Business Chronicle needs to have a tourism & destination report each week — many out-of-towners read the AJC for Atlanta “news”…they read the Chronicle to get the “business/economy climate” of Atlanta

In addition, the ABC also needs to resurrect their “Marketing & Media” section so Atlanta will appear to be a creative and vibrant city — the Marketing & Media section used to highlight all the creative accounts awarded — this was also another way to highlight the Atlanta business/corporate community.

WhereISmarta?

February 9th, 2010
9:29 am

Make Marta accessible. Make more lines! We ALL want to use it but we simply can’t. Yes its been an issue for years, but no WE haven’t done anything about it. Jacked up the prices and put price tags to park at the stations. ABSURD. I cant use Marta unless I want to go somewhere off Peachtree. That’s It. But the only way I can get to Marta is if I drive to Peachtree to get on the train! So if I’ve already driven to Peachtree why wouldn’t I just drive on down to my final location off P’street? City officials I hope you are reading this! Fix this problem. Infrastructure!

I learned the importance of this in high school. The Romans had it. NY has it, DC, Chicago. Atlanta does not. Fix this, you’ll have tourist. Fix this and you’ll have the locals. We will actually come out and enjoy our city more than we already do.

We have the culture, we have great restaurants, we have great suburbs and beautiful parts of the city. We have the mountains, the lakes and the parks.

Ihorizon – Your Branding idea is pretty cool
Nono – You’re absolutely right, Atlanta is not a great walking city. There are small little glitches that we have to fix and as soon as we do it I think our city will be clean & beautiful
Native bird – Even though the Hip/hop R&B capital is Atlanta, I agree, out of towners perceive us as “Thug”!
IT is what it is – you pretty much agreed with Nativebird and I totally agree with what you said. We can’t expect people to come to Atlanta when we are perceived as Ghetto or Thug.
MediaMoxxie – Dead on with Marta
BlazerDawg – Everyone has to agree with you bc what you said was right on. But we just can’t enjoy all of this bc we can’t see it. We can’t get to it.

So no, I didn’t give you a slogan. I gave you an idea to fix our problem – which everyone already knew. First things first, we can’t miss an important step (which we already have) and believe we can get to point “Z” without going through all the necessary steps to get there. We missed one of the lst important steps, Infrastructure. If you want tourist to come and more locals to enjoy the city you just have to do it.

I believe there was a pretty famous quote in the movie, “Field of Dreams” that said it pretty well….

DonP

February 9th, 2010
9:42 am

I agree with all the post.

I for one definitely want to get rid of the “ATL” — get rid of all those “hip hop” award shows (let another city have a crack at them…we’ll gladly turn them over …Phoenix? DC?, anyone?).

Tell the AJC to STOP reporting about TI, Jermaine Dupri, Da BRAT,Tiny, Toya, Lil Wayne etc… this has really hurt our city with all the “wanna-be rappers” wanting to come here…STOP PLEASE!!

DonP

February 9th, 2010
9:44 am

ihorizon — like your idea.

Cheryl — like your slogan

Devon

February 9th, 2010
9:46 am

PLEASE get rid of all that hip-hop garbage. I also don’t need to know when TI goes to jail, when TI gets out of jail. That is nothing to be proud of or reported.

The AJC forgets that they have readers outside of Atlanta/Georgia that read this mess.

Let’s clean up our image, please!

Darlene

February 9th, 2010
9:48 am

MediaMoxxie, love the EXPRESS train idea.

ihorizon – like your concept – I can actually visualize – would go great with Cheryl’s slogan

Lori & Nono – you nailed it.

maddog

February 9th, 2010
10:08 am

New Slogan? How about: Atlanta, a City to stuck in traffic to get anything done

Cheryl

February 9th, 2010
10:10 am

Take A Look At “Atlanta”…The South Never Looked So Good…

MediaMoxxie

February 9th, 2010
10:12 am

Cheryl, you are on a roll!! LOL

Darlene

February 9th, 2010
10:14 am

I think ihorizon, Cheryl, MediaMoxxie & iRun should all work on an ACVB committee…you all have come up with much better ideas than they have.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by StaffFinancial and Henry Unger, leaholson. leaholson said: Online Marketing: Selling the city without a slogan – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) http://ow.ly/16xbxG [...]

Leslie

February 9th, 2010
10:16 am

Cheryl, don’t let the ACVB or Chamber try and steal your slogans…:-)

Darren

February 9th, 2010
10:22 am

Yeah, Cheryl — make them pay you like Mayor Franklin paid Dallas Austin to write that stupid song for Atlanta a few years. It was so awesome, I can’t even remember it!

MediaMoxxie

February 9th, 2010
10:22 am

ihorizon & Cheryl, I like your style…

Leslie

February 9th, 2010
10:25 am

Same for ihorizon…don’t let them steal your idea concept. The ACVB probably told the AJC to run this so they could use some of the readers ideas…sad.

AdExec

February 9th, 2010
10:28 am

I agree with Leslie. I definitely like ihorizon & Cheryl’s ideas. Best thing I have heard about this city in a long time.

So much better than, “Every Day is Opening Day” — WTF?

TheoBg

February 9th, 2010
10:30 am

I couldn’t believe they PAID Dallas Austin for that crap!

44mx

February 9th, 2010
10:32 am

i’m glad i am not the only one who never got it.

every day is opening day. how does that translate to atlanta?

44mx

February 9th, 2010
10:35 am

also agree with donp on the hip-hop mess. it cannot leave soon enough for me.

negative city

February 9th, 2010
10:42 am

Why don’t we have something like “come down to hear us bitch” I used to love Atlanta until I started reading comments on the AJC from people who fled 30 years ago and haven’t been back since, this is the most negative city in the world hands down. NYC was a den of crime had the most negative image you could get in the 19070s and 80s what did they do? They fixed it, they put their best foot foward and now their most dangerous neighborhood Times Square is full of tourists from the midwest and around the world, safe as can be. What will people here do? Run to Norcross (where the crime is now BTW) sit in their ugly cookie cutter suburban house and post hatred filled nonsense rants on internet message boards under anonymous names, while the rest of save these last 2 minutes from me are living in and enjoying a world class city. We will only grow as a major city as these good ole boy white flighters die off.

negative city

February 9th, 2010
10:43 am

meant 1970s*

negative city

February 9th, 2010
10:48 am

And before the inevitable racism starts on here, I am a white boy southern born and southern bred, and guess where all the other southern boys and girls of my generation are, living in the city Buckhead, Midtown, VaHi…fixing the mistakes of our parents generation…if the Georgia state assembly would cooperate of course, but they can only work until 4, have to get back up to Alpharetta.

Leslie

February 9th, 2010
10:50 am

Negative City, while I agree with some of what you are saying, for this post, I think most of the comments today have been positive.

In regards to MARTA, it’s not being so negative more than it is a statement of fact. The systems just does not meet the needs of its residents, tourist or businesses.

blazerdawg

February 9th, 2010
10:53 am

NC- you have become what you despise, but as a fellow SAWB from the South I understand your perspective. ATL just needs some leadership – I think most folks here, native and otherwise, are pretty positive.

Leslie

February 9th, 2010
10:57 am

I think we all agree that Atlanta has a lot to offer residents and tourist alike, however, the problem has always been “getting there”.

I can’t believe that no one at MARTA, ACVB or the Chamber have come up with something as simple as an EXPRESS train from the aiport? (per MediaMoxxie). That would at least be a start in the right direction.