More magic than who?
Three years ago, the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce made its annual “Big Trip” to Nashville, taking business, community and political leaders on a tour through Music City USA. Everyone knew it was Music City USA because “Music City USA” was on virtually everything — lampposts, signage, cocktail napkins. Even the dessert plates were garnished with tiny chocolate guitars. Nashville had established its brand.
Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was on that trip, and the idea of branding a city triggered those squally machinations in his mind. As usual, he believed his first idea was the best and damned if anyone would convince him otherwise.
Leapin’ Larry’s brainstorm was top hats. A magician’s hat, actually, with a hand pulling things out of it — Vulcan, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, VisionLand. (Second thought, better put that last one back in the hat.)
All this, of course, was predicated on that old Birmingham moniker — the Magic City. At the turn of the 20th century, the city grew so fast as if by magic, or so the story goes. In truth it was by brutal industrialism, cheap labor and a serendipitous supply of natural resources. However, images of pre-OSHA workers on telephone poles doesn’t work so well as a marketing strategy. Leapin’ Larry would get his Magic hats.
Fast-forward a few years. Langford is mayor and no sooner had he redecorated his new office had the city rolled out its new logo. And this was it.
The image is on the city website. On city pamphlets. When the mayor holds a press conference, he performs in front of a backdrop of these magic hats. As the politicos put it, City Hall is on message.
Barberton: The Magic City.
Oops. Barberton? Ohio? Suburb of Akron? Magic? City?
Indeed, Barberton and Birmingham are two among at least 17 cities that claim to be the Magic City.
Birmingham isn’t the largest “Magic City.” That would be Chicago, Illinois. I suppose being windy wasn’t enough for them.
Nor is Birmingham the smallest “Magic City.” That distinction goes to Leadville, Colorado.
Somewhere in the middle is Birmingham, along with Bogalusa, Louisiana. Why a city with a fun name like “Bogalusa” would need an alias is a mystery to me.
So who’s the real Magic City?
In a world driven by the Internet, there’s only one thing that can settle a branding question such as this.
I opened my web browser, filled in the blank — “Magic City” — and clicked “I’m feeling lucky.”
Google settled the question, and boy was I lucky.
I’d tell you the answer, but it’s a lot more fun to find on your own.