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Rebranding Cowtown? The irons are in the fire!

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You can take the cow outta Cowtown … but the smell of cowflops lingers.

Can it be more than two decades since I reported that they weren't going to sell cows in Calgary any more? For those of you who collect statistics, the last one they sold in Cowtown wasn't actually a cow, it was a 1,915 pound Texas longhorn steer, name unrecorded, probably because it didn't have one, and it fetched the princely sum of $3,700.

Back then, I reckon, they figured cows just didn't match up with the notion of what was certain to become Canada's most dynamic city.

But, whatever, that was then and this is now. Here it is 21 years later, plus another oil boom that we managed to piss away just like the last one we memorialized on that bumper sticker, and it turns out that shipping the cattle trade to Strathmore didn't help one itty-bitty bit.

Cowtown is still Cowtown, a place with all the vices of a small town and none of the graces. Just can't help itself!

It is truly distressing news that leads us to this inevitable conclusion. To wit: the good burghers of Cowtown, as it were, recently took it upon themselves to strip from their community the last vestiges of what they once were, are now and ever shall be. Nosireebob! They were gonna get themselves a whole new slogan.

Now, none of this is to say that, just like any other Canadian city, Calgary doesn't have its share of citizens who drink white wine, enjoy reading poetry that doesn't rhyme and even ... as shocking as this may be to those of you who are hearing it for the first time … run advertising agencies!

But in the minds of the worthies in charge of the boondoggle known as "economic development" in Cowtown, there was just no way they figured a local ad agency could come up with a slogan that would show Calgary as the kind of forward looking, dynamic, futuristic, expensive restaurant sort of place it had turned into in their hopes and dreams. And, anyway, "Heart of the New West," complete with a stylized white cowboy hat, just wasn't cutting the heifers any more.

So they decided it was time for re-branding -- and, you gotta know, in a place with a name like Cowtown, re-branding is a concept that evokes more than thoughts of new letterhead with a snazzily updated icon. Like, ouch! Just the same, they loaded up the truck and went to Bever-lee … Hills, that is! Movie Stars… Swimmin' pools (without ice) … Los Angeles!

Yup, that pretty well says it all right there. Just like the Clampetts, flush with their oil money -- Jed, Granny, Elly May and Jethro Bodine -- Calgary Economic Development just had to go to Los Angeles, where they found a company that's "a catalyst for revitalization" (really! I’m not making this up!) and paid it $190,000 US.

And for this they got -- hold onto your Stetsons, buckaroos -- Canada's most dynamic city!

Well, actually, they didn't even get that. "Canada's most dynamic city" turns out to be merely a "position statement."

Later, cowkids! "The brand should embrace Calgary's history of attracting 'self-starting, self-confident optimists' as well as the city's values of 'volunteerism, integrity and hospitality,'" says a pifflesheet published by Calgary Economic Development, kindly passed on to us by the CBC. In other words, sometime later, they'll get something with dynamic in it.

In the interests of efficiency, here are some possibilities:

Calgary, California's most dynamic city….

Calgary, Canada's most American dynamic city … and weirdly proud of it….

Calgary, Canada's most dynamic weather…

Guys? This just isn't working! If you're really sick of being known as Cowtown, here are a couple of possibilities that actually might work: Close down the annual spectacle of animal cruelty called the Calgary Stampede. And stop giving white cowboy hats to all your big-shot visitors. (I wonder where Mikhael Gorbachev keeps his?)

Oh, yeah, and quit feeling like you have to go to California and pay big bucks to get re-branded. (After all, there're a couple of ad agencies in Calgary right now heating up some irons in the fire to help you with that project!)

The need you feel to go Stateside for marketing help? It's a sure sign you still have a trace of you-know-what clinging to your boot-heels! And that's no bull…

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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