August 05, 2004
"It's Worth It"

I'm moderately surprised that as of this blogging, none of my fellow Houstonians have commented on this.

Throughout its existence Houston has struggled to come up with an effective image campaign. There have been many attempts, but none like the latest.

Calling attention to flying cockroaches, pollution, flooding, construction and billboards, it's called "Houston. It's Worth It."

The campaign is creating a buzz around town and has among its fans Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, director Peter Marzio, and Hermann Park will incorporate it into its 90th anniversary party.

The branding campaign is the brainchild of David Thompson and Randy Twaddle, partners in the local marketing firm ttweak.

No municipal body has commissioned or endorsed "Houston. It's Worth It," a self-financed, guerrilla-style operation that aims to build grass-roots support.

"Houston. It's Worth It" spotlights Houston's 20 "afflictions," which include: "The heat. The traffic. The sprawl. The ridicule. The air. The no mountains."

Its intent isn't to focus on the negatives, but to create a vehicle for which people can express their reasons for liking Houston despite the hardships, Thompson said.

Before I get into my opinion of this, I just want to say that "Twaddle" is perhaps the perfect surname ever for a marketing guy.

I confess, I kinda like this scheme. I don't think anyone who lives in Houston will dispute the basic fact that there are things about it that aren't so nice, though some of us don't find the heat to be a negative. Those of us who like it here simply believe that the positives about Houston outweigh them. It's not like Houston is the only city in America with issues related to local fauna, weather, traffic, or any of the various other items on the list, after all. We don't focus on those things because there are better and more relevant things to focus on.

Something that often gets overlooked when a city's negative traits are discussed is that to the locals, some of those traits are a badge of honor. I can't tell you how many people I've met who claim that their hometown has the world's worst drivers in it, for example. It's a way of demonstrating one's toughness by noting all of the things one has to overcome just to make it through the day.

And let's face it, given Houston's official attempts to market itself, it's not like Thompson and Twaddle can do any worse:

[Jordy Tollett, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau] acknowledged that it has been a challenge over the years to come up with the right slogan.

"We've probably spent an excess of $75 million in the past 30 years on image campaigns, and we keep coming back and saying, 'Well, that didn't work.' "

One of the more embarrassing moments came in 1997 during the "Houston. Expect the Unexpected" campaign.

The Houston Image Group, a city-sponsored commission, spent $500,000 for an ad in Time magazine featuring a scratch-off sweepstakes game. Only one person among 4 million Time subscribers claimed one of the 33 prizes.

Pretty much speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Anyway, I think these guys are on to something. I'll have to check out their web site to see what other reactions they've gotten. In the meantime, Sue gives her reason for why Houston is worth it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 05, 2004 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

That's a rather strange marketing campaign. It's not often boosters make it a point to mention the usual downfalls to living in a place like Houston, only to say later...but it's all worth it!

Just in case a few people outside of the area didn't know that Houston is a furnace in the summer, mosquito-infested and flatter than flat, this campaign tells them that it is! Curious.

Posted by: Tim on August 5, 2004 1:04 PM

I'm no lover of the H-beast, but I'll mute myself at this golden opportunity to slag on your town, and just let a quote from the referenced site speak for itself:

"It's a metropolitan area, but still feels like a small town."

(For the record I schooled in S.A. and fervently want to swap out Baton Rouge for Austin. And, I'm a Kuffner fan.)

Posted by: oyster on August 5, 2004 1:50 PM

Well, I schooled in SA as well, and "It's a metropolitan area, but still feels like a small town" is pretty much what my impression of it was. That was back in the 80s, and SA has grown quite a bit since then, but I think it's still more true than not. For what it's worth.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 5, 2004 2:19 PM

Speaking of cockroaches...we were, weren't we?
This morning when leaving the house (in Oak Forest) on my front porch was a good sized tree roach zooming around and round like a dog chasing it's tail. I'm 40 years old, native Houstonian and I've NEVER seen a roach do that.
My 10 year old daughter followed me out "What's going on with that roach?"

The Houston Heat not only builds character, it BREEDS them as well. Which is why I like it here.

But not the cockroaches. Those I could do without.

Posted by: SealDeal on August 5, 2004 2:46 PM

"Houston: Like we give a damn what you think."

Posted by: Laurence Simon on August 5, 2004 2:53 PM

I like Laurence Simon's proposal. Just needs a footnote and some small print reading, "But damned if the City Counsel and the County don't keep spending our money to make you like us anyway! As if."

Posted by: Beldar on August 5, 2004 10:31 PM

How about "Houston - we'll friendly you right to death!"

Seriously. If Texans are big ol' friendly dogs, Houstonians are the most outgoing labradors of the pack. No matter where I am in the world, I can always spot a fellow Houstonian from a distance - and they can id me, as well.

Now I'm all homesick. Raja Sweets, the best car mechanic in the world, the first movie theater I ever felt citified in (Greenway), Goode Co, y'all enjoy that town!

Posted by: Ellen on August 6, 2004 8:50 AM

Thanks all, for your comments. If you haven't posted them to our site, please do. Really, the power of the campaign has nothing to do with the slogan. It has everything to do with the thoughtfulness (and quantity) of why people think it's worth it. For good and bad. And thanks to you as well Charles, for the interest.

Posted by: The HIWI Squad on August 8, 2004 3:56 PM

Please! Not another campaign to attempt to get people to visit this slop-hole. Who in their right mind would visit this place for pleasure? The only good thing about Houston is the international airport. Gosh, I can't wait to leave here.

Posted by: Kevin on August 14, 2004 10:12 PM



Posted by: Bob James on August 15, 2004 12:17 AM

I took your hint (slowly but surely) and chimed in re: HIWI on my blog. Right back at ya.

Posted by: Robin on August 16, 2004 10:51 PM

I agree that Twaddle is a great name for a marketing guy. Randy Twaddle also paints a beautiful picture of a large city with many drawbacks, particularly the climate. I am sure that when Twaddle puts on his shirt and knickers on a July day and goes to his car, he is sweating bullets in less than a minute! After all, Houston, It's Worth It.

Posted by: Marco on December 20, 2004 9:17 AM