Souls of Cities
I've created ads for local businesses from coast to coast for nearly a quarter century and I've studied the population of every place for which I've written ads; more than 100 towns in all. And I've presented seminars in an additional 92. That's a lot of travel.
And I've noticed that cities have personalities.
Humor can be different, for one thing. The video clip that causes an explosion of laughter in one city may trigger only the slightest giggle in the next. And women wear their makeup differently. The appreciation of art will be narrow in one city and broad in another. And religion can run shallow or deep. The work ethic is different here than there, and risk orientation with it.
If you will write ads for a local business, you must first feel the pulse of the place; measure its inhibitions and embrace the rules of its morality.
America is young, barely 4 human life-spans. This is why you should always begin your uncovery by asking:
1. Why is this city here?
2. Who founded it?
3. What attracted its original population?
As newcomers get involved in a community, they're affected by the town's local culture and begin subtly sliding toward the local norm. Outsiders thus become insiders.
Learn the origins of a town and you'll have found a thread that will tie all your other observations together and make your ads much stronger.
A town built on a discovery of gold or oil will often continue to have a “get-rich-quick” mentality to this day. Multilevel marketing will be strong there and con men will rock and roll because these cities are optimistic and have an uncanny ability to believe. Such towns are havens for entrepreneurs of every description. Silicon Valley (Sutter's Mill was there,) Denver, Tulsa…
A town that originated as a military fort will usually have more grit and testosterone than neighboring cities. Compare Fort Worth to its neighbor, Dallas: Fort Worth began as a military post in 1849. Dallas began as a trading post in 1840. Today Fort Worth is known for its stockyards, aerospace, and Texas Motor Speedway. Dallas is known for Neiman-Marcus and Mary Kay.
Likewise, St. Paul originated in 1819 as Fort Snelling and remains the seat of Minnesota government. Neighboring Minneapolis began as a trading post and remains a hub of commerce to this day. Ever heard of the Mall of America?
An enthusiastic pair of New York real estate promoters founded Houston, Texas. The hyped-up boys assured investors it would become “a great center of government and commerce,” and then delivered what they promised.
Happy Discovery, Militarism, and Energetic Commerce are just 3 of the 32 signals a city can send you to help you write more powerfully to its people.
If you would be a journalist or a marketing professional, you must press your ear to the chest of your city, hear its heartbeat and smell its breath. Carl Sandburg did, 42 years before I was born:
HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be the Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
Do you understand your city the way Sandburg understood his?
If you do, you're well on your way to having a fabulous 2007.
Roy H. Williams
CHRISTMAS TRADITION – The Journey of the Wise Men continues each night from 6PM to 9PM on the campus of Wizard Academy. Journeys begin every 20 minutes. Just come to the Welcome Center and wear your walking shoes.
Today's illustration is The History of New York by Thomas Hart Benton
BLOOD DIAMOND is a new action movie about the cruel rape of the people of Sierra Leone. Martin Rapaport (Google that name) is an Acadgrad and a friend who is working hard to restore the health and peace of that place. See him talk about it on YouTube.