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VOL. 129 | NO. 125 | Friday, June 27, 2014

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

The View From Nashville

By Dan Conaway

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IF WE DON’T CARE, NO ONE ELSE WILL. Longtime friend and Nashville marketing maven, David Bohan, answered my column about oxymoronic Nashville barbecue with his own column “Marketing Matters” in The Tennessean last week.

In doing so, I think my friend made my point. The point wasn’t tongue-in-cheek comparisons to things that don’t exist – say, Nashville barbecue – or provincial outrage at being judged by Philistines – say, Travel + Leisure. My point was that Nashville is getting away with it because they’re smarter, better organized and relentless in their effort.

“I understand the outrage, but I think Nashville earned its ranking in part because it adopted some solid marketing principles when it comes to barbecue,” David tells his readers. “Nashville’s barbecue scene offers a wide range of product, some of the best from all around the country. Plus, we have added our own versions, creating new barbecue classics.”

Note “from all around the country,” as in, not from Nashville, and “new barbecue classics,” as in, trust me, someday people will think that an egg and cheese on a barbecue sandwich is a great idea.

He continues, “Just like smart companies, we have products to fit a wide variety of consumer tastes. Coca-Cola did not stop with its original recipe, even though it was a winner. Your grocery now has multiple choices to fit your taste, and the Coca-Cola freestyle machines in some fast food restaurants allow you to blend your own special Coke flavors. Porsche now offers an SUV and a four-door sedan. They still are high-performance vehicles, but they’re far afield from Porsche’s classic sports car origins.”

Note that whatever Coke and Porsche have done to enhance and evolve their brands, those brands were theirs to begin with. Nashville is borrowing their interest from neighbors too asleep to see it.

Here’s the meat of it.

“Several years ago, Nashville launched an effort to diversify its product offering. Then, it set about getting the word out. Today, you need a focused effort to get publicity. Our town did not get all of its recent accolades just because we earned them. The mayor’s office, the Convention & Visitors Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce and our Partnership 2020 initiative have been working together aggressive to cultivate relationships with the national media. This marketing investment has really paid off.”

That is exactly what I’ve been advocating in this space, from podiums, and in offices and bars all over town for years – get our act together. We have our own versions of all those civic voices David mentions. The difference is they speak with one clear voice in Nashville, calling for attention in unison. Ours is a mixed babble, speaking in tongues.

When you start taking the things you love for granted, others will take them away from you.

Thanks, David, for helping me wake some people up over here. I owe you some barbecue, and I guess we’ll have to see if it matters anymore whether we have it there or here.

I’m a Memphian, and it’s time to send a message.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

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