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Renee Zellwegger rebrands us

Can we get our money back?

If there's any justice in this world there has to be a warranty on brands that go bad.

A bad brand is like a nickname that ruins your life. "Hey, Stinky, how's it goin'?"

And we're stuck with a cropper.

A few years ago the tall foreheads of Gary Doer's economic development committee decided Manitoba needed a new image---fast. They hired a new york company called InterBrand which claimed to be the experts in the field, having come up with sharp, slick slogans for cities and countries around the world.

Two million dollars later the Gotham geniuses unveilled their creation. Ta daaa….Manitoba would henceforth be known as the home of Spirited Energy.

Yep, think New Coke, the Edsel, the Hindenberg (the finest in transportation anywhere).

It was so soul-less and artificial it looked, sounded and smelled like a something created by a committee---which is exactly what it was.

Stage One of the reveal was sell-it-to-the-locals. That went so disastrously the province scrubbed Stage Two, tell-it-to-the-world. They're still trying to salvage what they can from the multi-million dollar boondoggle, so we're stuck with a redesigned provincial symbol and a psychedelic squiggle background to all provincial advertising.

The old-style, Disney-like buffalo has been replaced with a sharper, bigger, blacker cousin because nothing says "here's a great place to live" better than a mean looking animal looking for trouble. The trippy squiggle on the other hand says "look, they're stuck in the Sixties. Groovy, man."

So why bring it up now?

Because we're being re-rebranded.
For free.

Movie stars Rene Zellwegger and Harry Connick Jr. are on a cross-country (U.S.) press tour to sell their just released romantic comedy New In Town, which was partially shot in Winnipeg. It opens in theatres everywhere today.

The reviews are less than warm; nobody in the U.S. today finds the shutting down of a factory in a small town amusing. So the interviews with the stars eventually slide into funny anecdotes about Winnipeg, more specifically how hellishly cold, brutally cold, and criminally cold Winnipeg is.

"I didn't realize that 'Yes, you really do need the coat that looks like a duvet.' Everyone was walking around in their Herman Munster boots, and I'd laugh. 'They look like Gene Simmons, 10 inches off the ground!' But you NEED them," Zellwegger told Orlando Sentinel.

"Why do you live in that town? Let's just be real, it's not human to live in a town like that, you know what I'm saying? That's just crazy cold. Don't go to Winnipeg between October and March," joked Connick in L.A.

Flush. Whoooooosh...With one sentence, $2 million down the drain.

Spirited Energy was supposed to replace Frigging Cold as Manitoba's world image. It didn't stand a chance. Because everyone in Winnipeg and in Manitoba knows that Connick is telling the truth. And nobody is laughing harder at the Winnipeg cold stories than us.

You can't rebrand Cyrano de Bergerac by talking up his wit and charm and hoping people don't notice his honker. Winnipeg is the Cyrano city. Manitoba is the Big Nose province.

Way back when, The Black Rod tried to decipher Interbrand's method for inventing a brand.

Check it out. You'll be surprised how closely we called it---the re-rebrand, that is.

The premier's economic advisory committee demonstrated their acumen by wasting a whack of money denying the obvious.

Interbrand gave them what they wanted, then took the money and ran.

But, it didn't have to be that way.

One of Interbrand's methods is to use the obvious---with a little sugar and a little spin. What if…

What if they had looked at something as obvious as the cold but with more potential. It was right there in front of their faces, like, well, Cyrano's nose.

Can you spot it in this excerpt from a story in the Boston Globe?

But Winnipeggers say there's more to their city than frigid temperatures
By Linda Matchan
Globe Staff / February 27, 2005

''We have had this constant stigma in the marketplace, in the community, nationally, and internationally as a place that is boring, is freezing cold, and full of mosquitoes," says Ash Modha, a Winnipeg businessman who co-chairs the Premier's Economic Advisory Committee's Image Task Force, which is overseeing the effort.

''Two of them are true -- the cold and mosquitoes," Modha says.

''We can do larvaciding to fix the mosquitoes, but we can't do anything about the cold, and that's the bottom line. . . . We keep getting hit with the same stigma of cold, cold, cold."

The province and its capital would like to temper that image and convert it to cool. This doesn't come naturally to humble Winnipeggers, despite the city's wealth of assets, not least of which is a population so friendly the provincial license plate reads ''Friendly Manitoba."

Winnipeggers' relentless pleasantness can seem almost surreal to a Bostonian. A real-life experience, in December:
Visitor to random department store clerk: ''Could you tell me where I could find a telephone?"
Clerk: ''The pay phones are around the corner, but would you like to use mine?"

That's right. Our brand could have been the warm hearts of Manitobans. Friendly Manitobans. Friendly like you won't find anywhere else on the continent. Our hearts creating an oasis of warmth in a sea of cold.

But here, from the same Boston Globe article, is what the government braintrust thought of that:

''We want to create a brand new progressive image rather than friendly Manitoba," says Modha. ''That's basically been the promotion for years. We are friendly, but we are more than just friendly. There's a lot more to the province than being friendly."

Instead they stuck us with a slogan and image so pitiful that anyone using it without the proper derision might as well be branded on the forehead with a big 'L' for Loooooser.

Can we get our money back? Surely someone knows where the receipt is.

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