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In 1696, Frederick I founded Akademie der Künste in Berlin. This haven for artists of all walks of life was the premier marketplace of ideas and styles in the late seventeenth century, and it became a forerunner to the Berlin University of the Arts, one of the most storied and prestigious institutions in the world. Frederick I was thereafter regarded as the first King of Prussia. Why, then, did I get a black eye two nights before my wedding in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania? I mean, that town was named after a peaceful patron of the arts, and yet in my wedding pictures, there’s my beautiful wife, and then there’s me, looking like I just went 12 rounds with the Klitschko brothers.
Some cities market themselves around their name alone. Each December, the post office in Christmas, Florida, sees a larger surge in mail per capita than any other post office in the Sunshine State because people will drive from miles around to have their holiday cards stamped “Christmas.” The same holds true in Valentine, Texas, come mid-February. On the flip side, the folks in Devils Lake, North Dakota, run into issues like the folks in Gun Barrel City or in Hell, Michigan, or in Satans Kingdom, Vermont. Unbeknownst to us laypersons , an entire marketing machine fuels the promotion and, in some cases, the softening of town names. And just like the local commerce plied in these burgs around the country, the commerce of city and state branding is thriving. Learn more about why Atlantic City is “always turned on,” and what “it” is that Louisville, Kentucky’s “got” on Click Here.
My freshman year of college, when I was getting to know my fellow classmates at the University of Missouri (I was an out-of-state student), I laughed out loud the first time a pale, pasty, straight-off-the-tractor guy told me he was from Mexico. Throughout the semester and all over campus, too many others told me they were from Mexico for it to be a big joke. For a Clevelander like me, it would have helped to have known they meant Mexico, Missouri, of course.
I see a marketing gold mine for that town. How about a T-shirt with a picture of a pretty couple lying on chaise longues, set up in a dirt patch next to the local Walmart, and a scrawl that says: Mexico: the Spring Break capital of mid-Missouri. Gold mine, I say.
But I’m afraid I don’t have any advice — or any good advice, anyway — for you folks in Looneyville, West Virginia. None for you folks in Euren, Wisconsin, either.