Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stephen Colbert takes a shot at Windsor


On a recent Colbert Report show on the Comedy Channel, Colbert in his rant called, "The Word" was referring to some of the worst places on earth and the title, "Windsor, Ontario" came up on the screen. OUCH!

It would be funny if it were not consistent with the feedback I've been getting to my question, "Have you ever heard of Windsor, Ontario, Canada?" What ever reason Colbert had to poke fun at Windsor is anyone's guess, but it is a high profile (1.5 million viewers) hit to Windsor's brand.

In the local media, there was much indigation. Most of the viewers having very little understanding of what brand means, came forward with countless promotional ideas to boost the city's image. But those in the know, understand that to change your off-brand perceptions you have to address the problems directly. You can advertise any positive message you want, but if the root problem is still there, you're not going to fool anyone - you are just going to continue to be the brunt of jokes and your brand will be left in the control of others.

A good case in point might be Sudbury, Ontario. This Northern Ontario city is a world leader in copper and nickel mining. Years ago, it too was the brunt of countless jokes because of the incredible polution that reduced the landscape to what could be described as an environmental disaster. In the late 60's NASA in preparation for the Apollo moon landings, sent astronauts there to train because of its "moonscape" terrain. Sudbury, got smart. It recognized that its brand would never improve with marketing spin, it had to fix the root cause. After many years of serious effort it is no longer the brunt of jokes. It has achieved a world-renouned reputation for environmental renewal. The landscape is green again and it's citizens enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Sudbury has proved that you can change what seems like an impossible task - all it takes is the will power to make it so.

Place branding has some of the toughest challenges associated with it because of the diverse nature of the stake holders who make up any location. It will take incredible effort and leadership to bring about an effective brand strategy the city can build on. As, Derrick Daye from The Blake Project so aptly put it in a recent discussion on this very issue, "It's like herding cats!"

Colbert is the wake-up call to fix it or laugh along with it. It really is our choice. What do you think? Are you happy with your city's brand?

28 comments:

dante said...

First, I want to say that I agree with you on your position that Windsor needs to fix it's image.

However, what I would like to know is how Colbert came upon Windsor as one of the worst places on earth? I'm not naive enough to think that he took a map of Canada, tossed a dart and it landed on Windsor... and I also don't entirely believe in coincidence so sure, let's say he found out Windsor maybe wasn't a "great city" or even a "middle-of-the-pack" city, but what source (whether credible or not) is telling him it's the worst?

I agree that this is a big blow to the city, and that the media has a huge sway on public opinion... but let's not start believing everything we see on TV. After all, Tucker Carlson referred to Canada as the US's retarded cousin and we all knew better than to trust his judgement...

Robert Kingston said...

Ouch... that is harsh.

I'd suspect that Colbert has a lot more viewers than 1.5M, too. A couple of my friends watch it here, down under.

I'm not sure how much of an impact it'd have on the city's reputation but depending on what he said about it, it's probably not good for anything except for creating awareness about the city.

Ed Roach said...

Apparently Colbert has made the remark before. It's hard to say what impact it has other than at the moment it's delivered. Since it's the second time he's said it, and given today's audience's short memories it is not doubt water under the bridge. But it does encourage discussion on Windsor's brand. I find it timely in discussions I'm inspiring here and on other blogs. Especially the impending blog workshop on the topic I'm launching with Derrick Daye from the Blake Project.

NoFactZone.net said...

Perhaps we've all missed the secondary intention of the joke. The joke has a question mark - it actually IS a question; Is Windsor the worst place on Earth?

Everyone is tired of "Detroit is hellhole" jokes. Do you remember the last Superbowl? They needed Windsor's help with hospitality issues. How many American cities have such a problem with hosting a major event that they need aid from a tiny neighbour to their south? Maybe the U.S. should ask for help from Mexico to fix its image? (That, is also a question.)

Also, it should be evident to any true Colbert fanatic that Windsor has an OHL team. The Spitfires? Ask that same Colbert fan what the team for Saginaw is, and he'll know that it's the Spirit. Oshawa? The Generals. What affect does that have? Saginaw Spirit merchandise (which accounts for the lion's share of junior hockey team revenues) has been flying off the shelves at an unprecedented rate. And what about Oshawa? I actually found a reason to go there just last tuesday. A little celebration called "Stephen Colbert Day." I ate at a local café, and supported local businesses. I bought into the Oshawa brand. I just might find myself buying into the Windsor brand soon enough.

Review that joke again, and remember - Stephen Colbert makes his living on turning our preconceptions on the media upside down, and along with that, the traditional way of marketing.

Another question: Is Tucker Carlson the retarded MSNBC cousin of Comedy Central's Jon Stewart?

Ed Roach said...

Thanks for the insightful feed back NoFact. The OHL reference puts an interesting spin on it and I also like your comments regarding Windsor as Detroit's hospitality coach.

Love your blog N0 Fact Zone by the way.

Ed

Saskboy said...

Usually when Colbert picks on something, it's time to fix the image, rather than laugh along about it. There's too much "laughing along with Bush and crew" going on in the world for example.

Ed Roach said...

SASKBOY,

You make a wise point. I think Colbert is very astute. I particularly enjoy the way he appears to support something but using tongue in cheek takes a jab at it. Regardless of what his intention was with Windsor that evening, his mention of the city in such negative context underscores some serious brand problems.

Thank you for your opinion.

Ed

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Colbert thinks he's far wittier than he actually is. He's a typical media "elitist" who thinks that because he lives in a more cosmopolitan city, he's a more cosmopolitan person. That's a flawed ideology, and if it can't be proven by idiots like Al Franken, there's no proving it to the person who doesn't accept that dimwits' inability to analyze anything as evidence.

Ed Roach said...

Anonymous,

Let's face it - Colbert, Franken, Jon Stewart are all entertainers, comedians, clowns, jesters, idiots - whatever you wish to label them. The Windsor point is, if we are the brunt of jokes what is the under lying motivation? Why wasn't Virginia City the "worst place on earth". In the (unscientific) survey I have going on, on blogs, the overall result might substantiate the Colbert comment.

Even Windsor itself knows that that it's brand is in trouble. Colbert is not the problem. Anonymous, if you are familiar with Ontario, you'll remember how bad Sudbury's brand was years ago, and it was also the brunt of jokes by idiots of the day. Now it is a leader in renewable environment. That's a great case history for re-building your brand.

I really don't think Colbert hates Windsor, no more than he thinks Oshawa has a bad hockey team. With his brand of humour he must stay relevant. He must stir the waters. For a political satirist, he must appear like an elitist otherwise he might as well tell knock-knock jokes. At the end of the day,
none of the clowns on air really take themselves that seriously, and the last laugh is at those of us who do.

Ed

H said...

Hi Ed,
for another outsider's look at Windsor-Detroit:
CBC's Definitely Not The Opera with Sook-Yin Lee ... Download DNTO does Windsor-Detroit (02/04/07)

Ed Roach said...

Henry, Thanks a bunch for the podcast. I really enjoyed it, I think I'll pass it on to the Mayor as well. He asked that I pass along anything of interest.

Also, loved the art connection. War art has a great heritage. There is a lot of talent over there. Let's hope they bring their work home safely. I imagine it helps to keep them sane amidst all the reality there.

Thanks again for dropping by and contributing to the discussion.

Ed

H said...

... Noam Chomsky is visiting Windsor in May, talking about his propaganda model at the University and at the Cleary -- the 17th ...

Ed Roach said...

Henry, why do I know the name Noam Chomsky?

H said...

Chomsky began the modern field of 'linguistics' in the 1960s, but he is known today for his leftist political writings: criticism of Western imperialism, American foreign policy, and propaganda .

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Anonymous said...

Ok i live in windsor and i thought that the segment was funny and true but not about the part with windsor it is a great city with lots to offer

here is a link to the video http://www.comedycentral.com/motherload/index.jhtml?ml_video=83553

Ed Roach said...

Anonymous,

Let's face it, it's a shot at Windsor's brand. The reality is not that it is true or not, but it is what is percieved to be true - that is your brand.

For instance part of Apple's brand is that it's computer cost more than PC's. But considering what comes with a MAC, this perception is untrue. But that is part of Apple's brand.

Viagra said...

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Ed Roach said...

Thank you. This subject gets regular comments. Also try my other post: http://brandcorral.blogspot.com/2007/02/have-you-ever-heard-of-windsor-ontario.html for more interesting comments on Windsor.

Enjoy

Wayne Nichols said...

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Anonimous said...

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Ed Roach said...

Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Anonimous said...

Hello! Interesting article, thanks to author!

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