Local Commentary

Editorial: Owning the New Brand

In the first days following the roll-out of the City of Falls Church’s new “branding” as “The Little City,” there has been plenty of feedback, especially via online blogs and web sites.

Even though some initial reaction has been unfavorable, Matt Smith of the Falls Church-based Smith Gifford marketing firm that developed the brand told the Falls Church City Council Monday night that he’s ecstatic with the initial response. Indications are, he said, that about half of those commenting like it, and half don’t. “Usually, if you get even a third to like it right away, you’ve got a winner,” he said. “You are always going to have a third of people who won’t like it, but if you have a third who do, then the third in between will come around over time.”

It is certainly an improvement over the well-known phrase that Gertrude Stein used to describe her hometown of Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco. “There is no there there,” she wrote in her autobiography, actually meant to refer to the fact that she could not find the house she grew up in. But it came to be known as a famous dig at the nondescript Oakland.

Then there was the effort by the late comic Johnny Carson to provide alternative slogans on state license plates. For one state, he offered, “So many sheep, so little time.” For another, “Clean living, clean fun, let’s leave.” We leave it for you to guess which states he was referring to.

One of our favorites is a giant billboard spotted outside a small city in West Texas that reads, “Welcome to Our Town. 5,000 Friendly People and a Few Old Soreheads.”

For Falls Church, city resident and long-time editor of The Hill, Al Eisele, wrote us tongue-in-cheek with some of suggestions for slogans that didn’t make the cut when “The Little City” was chosen. Consider these: “George Washington Went to Church Here, and So Can You,” “Millions Pass Through Here Every Day Without Stopping,” “See the World’s Only Art Deco Post Office,” “Halfway Between East and West on the Orange Line,” “Home of the Episcopal Church Schism,” “If You’re in Tysons Corner or Alexandria, You’ve Gone Too Far,” and about a dozen others.

Some of those offered as alternatives by other local residents include “The Itty Bitty City,” and “The Vibrant City.” The latter was referenced by Smith at Monday’s work session. “It sounds good, except it’s not true,” he quipped. Well, at least not yet.

What’s “revolutionary,” if you will, about Falls Church’s new slogan is that it represents the first time in the 50-plus years of the City that it has enjoyed a the benefit of a unifying identity. We share Matt Smith’s confidence that over time a significant majority here will buy into the concept, own it, and run with it to the benefit of us all.