Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward announced the city’s new brand today at the Saenger Theater downtown. The new brand represents a shift away from the ‘City of Five Flags’ moniker and is meant to better convey the area’s assets when marketing the city to visitors and businesses.
“Everything that is good about Florida is better in Pensacola,” Hayward told the crowd at the Saenger. “This is not a tag line.”
The mayor stood behind a lectern on the theater stage, flanked by potted plants. Above him, in large letters, a message was projected onto a screen: ‘If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.’
That wasn’t the tag line either. The city’s new tag line is: ‘Pensacola—the upside of Florida.’
After his speech, Hayward spoke with members of the press about the new brand and how he felt it was better than the area’s current geographic identifier.
“I don’t like that word: the ‘panhandle,’” Hayward said. “You know, we are the ‘upside’ of Florida.”
During his presentation of the new brand, the mayor told those in attendance that he believed the rebranding effort was needed to usher the city into the future. He spoke about how the city seemed to have “little to no image” and about “broad synergy.” He said the outside world considers Pensacola “an afterthought” and that the new brand would better convey a “contemporary, forward thinking” environment.
“We want to position Pensacola to capture a larger share of the future,” Hayward said. “Think about that.”
When the city’s new logo was presented, the crowd inside the Saenger applauded. Outside on the sidewalk, the mood was less celebratory.
“We’re a little concerned about his rebranding,” said Jennie Spanos. “We’d like to see some real change.”
Spanos was among a group of people writing messages in chalk on the bricked walk in front of the Saenger. The group hailed mostly from the ranks of Occupy Pensacola—not the current Occupiers from the homeless encampment at Pensacola City Hall, but rather the politically-engaged contingent from the fall of 2011.
The chalked messages were aimed squarely at Hayward. They criticized him for, in short, focusing on business interests at the expense of all else. As one Occupier put it, the rebranding is only an attempt “to bring in more opportunities for the upper crust of this city.”
“Basically, there’s a lot more problems in Pensacola that need to be dealt with,” said Landon Brooks. “Basically, the city is turning into a hub of crony capitalism.”
As the Occupiers milled in front of the theater, two police cars pulled to the side of Palafox Street. Someone suggested that City Administrator Bill Reynolds probably called them.
“Is there someone else down here with you,” one of the police officers asked the group. “Someone complaining?”
The Occupiers shook their heads—‘no one’s complaining.’ The officer does a walk around. She steps over messages: one calling for the eviction of ‘King Hayward’ and another bashing the mayor’s goal of using the Port of Pensacola as a service hub for ships working in the Gulf of Mexico’s offshore oil fields.
Following Hayward’s speech, Bill Paul—one of the original organizers of Occupy Pensacola—stood in the Saenger’s lobby near a long table full of finger sandwiches and a three-dimensional rebrand-model of a city street.
Paul, older than most of the other Occupiers and visibly irritated by some of his cohorts’ boisterous antics, said he understands the rebrand effort—he has a marketing background—but felt the city had more to deal with than its image. He wondered how the rebrand might benefit the area’s homeless, or better the circumstances of the working poor.
“For a city to grow it has to have balance—and I’m a 100 percent for this—but you can’t ignore the poverty that’s all around you,” Paul said, looking over the streetscape model.
Back on the stage, Mayor Hayward held court with the media. He looked into a wall of microphones and lenses as he talked up the city and its new brand.
“We’re a real city, folks,” he said. “We need people to take us seriously.”
The mayor said that the rebranding team looked to other cities for inspiration—“What is Boulder, Colorado doing? What is Austin, Texas doing?”—and that Pensacola should be Northwest Florida’s premier city—“We have the history.”—and that people were constantly asking him why the city was slow to capitalize on itself.
“They say, ‘why is this place not roaring?’ This place should be roaring,” Hayward told the press. “We have incredible assets, we just haven’t told the world about them.”
The rebrand effort was put together by the Zimmerman Agency, a Tallahassee marketing firm. The marketing job cost the city about $82,000. The plan is to place the new logo on signs throughout the city, as well as on everything from city vehicles to city stationary.
During his presentation, Hayward asked people to put their energy behind the new brand—“We have a golden opportunity, folks, to really put our foot on the accelerator.”—and he requested that citizens “be consistent with the brand, and be disciples of our brand.”
“Like Bonnie Raitt said—and Bonnie Raitt played right here in the Saenger Theater—let’s give’em something to talk about,” Hayward told them.