Brilliant idea

There was an interesting op-ed in Sunday’s Post-Standard by consultant John Gann about upstate New York’s need to market itself to wealthy downstaters as a “better place to visit, live and work.”

Upstaters enjoy some of the nation’s most affordable housing, abundant land and uncrowded interstate highways – along with productive farmland, excellent colleges and universities, short commutes, safe neighborhoods, friendly people, great scenery, and generally reasonable local regulations. It’s almost a bit of the Midwest advantageously if improbably located in the Northeast. Missouri on the Mohawk.

Missouri on the Mohawk? That’s a new one.

So what kinds of people and businesses might such Upstate virtues be marketed to? Logically it would be those found in a place with super-high housing and business costs, lofty property taxes, congested highways, widespread crime, an extreme scarcity of land for housing and development, tedious commuting and vanishing farmland. And ideally such a place should be close to Upstate to facilitate investigation and relocation and overcome resistance to the remote and unfamiliar. So the most natural place to sell Upstate is Downstate. Upstate may indeed be the perfect nearby antidote to the downside of New York City and its suburbs. And mining Downstate for jobs and households is certainly a better bet than trying to recruit them from other states or overseas.

I’m not sure sophisticated downstaters really want to go to Missouri, though.

But marketing in the usual sense may not be what Upstate needs, the term having become confused with logos, cute slogans, artsiness and other Madison Avenue frivolousness. Even to fellow New Yorkers, Upstate is going to be a hard sell, the two parts of this state being more like two different planets.

It is an interesting article, but Gann mentions the Illinois power company which reminds me that companies like NYRI find upstate New York very, very alluring indeed to “market” to downstaters who are looking for stuff to make them go. I give Gann points for acknowledging the reality of the cultural divide and seeing it as a strength, not a weakness — and taking the competition straight to our very own doppelganger, NYC. So how do you sell yourself without losing yourself?

But hey, wait a second. While we’re sitting here talking about marketing ourselves to downstate, New York City wants to start marketing itself to Chinese tourists! Why not cut out the middleman and just market Central New York to the Chinese ourselves? Here, I have prepared some draft copy for a brochure. (Click for translation)

So, what do you think?