Something there is that brands a place, that defines a community, that clearly distinguishes the locale that residents call their city.
There has been a commotion of late loosely surrounding the Fashion Meets Music Festival in general, and specifically aimed at the festival organizer’s invitation to feature R&B performer R Kelly to headline said event. UPDATE
The organizers defended their choice in the wake of numerous complaints from artists and consumers alike about Kelly’s past arrest, acquittal, and ongoing reputation as a sexual predator. One such rationale voiced by Bret Adams, “…we are not the morality police.”
FMMF started with the honorable, civic-minded intention to mark Columbus as a destination Labor Day Weekend with a signature festival that is unique, combining the local resources of our fashion/design infrastructure with that of myriad musicians, bands, songwriters and producers in the 614. But by their own admission, this was the first attempt to plan and execute a music festival of this scale. There are bound to be missteps and misfires.
In my opinion, the FMMF train derailed when it lost track of its audience, the customers, the tens of thousands of music, arts and fashion consumers who were the target of FMMF’s marketing plan. Complaints proliferated on social media sites about the perception of out-of-town consultants calling the shots with top-down decisions. This digests poorly in a town that succeeds year after year in staging popular grassroots festivals such as ComFest and Independents’ Day.
A band dropped out, then another, both in protest of R Kelly named as a headliner. Then a popular public radio broadcaster withdrew from sponsorship. More publicity. Growing gnashing of teeth on Facebook.
DISCLOSURE: This writer is on staff at WCBE 90.5 FM, and involved in the decision made by General Manager Dan Mushalko on July 25 to withdraw from our partnership of FMMF. From this perspective I recognize elements of the organizer’s intentions that are positive, with a goal of Columbus hosting a distinctive annual music festival in the magnitude of SXSW in Austin. The intention of elevating Brand Columbus in the perception of those outside the 614.
Here’s where I believe they missed- Fundamentally, branding is NOT the message a committee fabricates and pushes out to the world. Rather, a brand is a PROMISE…past/present/future…the ongoing perception of a product, of a name, of a place as it is realized by the target of the branding, the audience, the customers. On a micro-level, our personal brand is simply our reputation. Not merely how we talk, but truly how we walk, what we stand for. We all carry such a brand, even R Kelly.
Collectively, the “US” in ColumbUS have developed an integral sense of place associated with our many developing neighborhoods, our philanthropy to local causes, our championing of local artists, our diverse food culture and all other activities distinctively Cbus. This is our brand, organically grown from roots upward.
Columbus, our Columbus, is the community that said “NO SLUTSAUCE FOR YOU, MR. HOMOPHOBE!”
And now we have made it clear that sexual predators are not welcome at an event celebrating our arts.
THIS is the Columbus Brand. It has nothing to do with serving as morality police.