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For Your Consideration: What’s in a Name?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Our newest column – by Janice Taylor – is her personal viewpoint of current issues and the City of SeaTac. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff. We are seeking additional regular columnists to reflect different opinions and views of SeaTac residents. Those interested can e-mail us at [email protected] [1].

by Janice Taylor

Recently, the city of SeaTac asked its citizens to help name a “new” code compliance effort. To fill you in on some background: Years ago, SeaTac had two code enforcement officers who split their territories up between the north and south ends of the city. Besides fielding citizen complaints, these officers proactively patrolled for problems. Somewhere along the line, we lost one officer yet gained supervisors and coordinators, and code enforcement now acts only on direct complaints. Well, okay. But it seemed the same people were complaining about the same problem children again and again with little results. So the good citizens took after City Council to shame them into action.

The City took a bold approach, utilized by public entities all over the country—they devised a something of marketing campaign, a press release and a survey of possible names. Webster defines marketing as “the activities that are involved in making people aware of a company’s products, making sure that the products are available to be bought, etc.”

I’ve been involved in numerous marketing campaigns and they typically start with a group brainstorming ideas. Think “Mad Men”. That still happens, now using computer programs and mostly minus the booze. Brainstorming is fun, loose and creative, not for the meek or business stodgy. You look at the product, its functions, its appearance, its perceived value to the targeted demographic, then you let the ideas fly like spaghetti against a wall. Through process of elimination, you discover the best name/slogan/logo/etc. for the product.

Ideally, the chosen name, etc., should communicate some sense of product identity or use. Example. Years ago I worked for a music company who created tapes (I said years ago) designed for dental offices to give patients something to listen to other than a drill. That product was named “Novotunes”, a nod to Novocain, with the sub-title of “Aural Anesthesia.”

Seattle City Light bills itself as “The Nation’s Greenest Utility.” That moniker would have been impossible years ago when “green” meant a color, not an ecological condition, and the word had to be marketed to become definition #10 in Webster. City Light spent two years and countless dollars surveying customers, which I participated in, gleaning the information it wanted to hear, creating the slogan and accompanying logo. The great thing is that no one really knows what “green” as it applies to City Light actually means! Yet, they are the greenest and Northwesterners are proud. At least we know they are a utility.

When I spoke at SeaTac City Council Tuesday, June 23rd, I chided them for not taking their marketing far enough, and used their survey’s offered names—SeaTac Shines, Brighter SeaTac, and SeaTac Soars—to inspire my own logos, one incorporating a turn-of-the last-century shoe shine boy, the second a sparkly dental office smile and the third a flying superhero. Hardly suggestive of code compliance. Those names fell short because the City has NO shiny, bright or high-flying product to offer. And after listening to citizens testifying of their personal code enforcement purgatories, one realizes the actual product is totally opposite those descriptions.

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Of course, one cannot sell a product by calling it a dud, and we citizens must understand our city officials were trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Their bad. What they can do to be more credible is to go back and fix their product, at least improve it. SeaTac already has the laws in place, they need to enforce them and penalize offenders. That is what citizens want–no showy marketing, just results.

I’ll offer the city a good start at improvement, free of charge. The cities of Seattle, Burien, Tukwila, Renton, Des Moines, Kent, basically every city around SeaTac, web sites offer on-line complaint filing features. With SeaTac, you have to download the form, print it out, fill it in, and either scan and e-mail, mail or fax it back. As the kids say, “Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot!” If the City has money to rebrand code compliance, they can find the money to put the city web site into the 21st century. Find form, fill it in, hit submit.

Finally, I’ll offer one more thing. How about we call our “new” program “Code Compliance Counts”? It tells what the product is, and that it matters. I’ll even offer a couple of logos:

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