Mmmkay? Nope.

Cheesy nicknames for grid hot spots, big cheddar for city-council hopefuls

Remember a few years back when the Midtown Business Association forked over tens of thousands of bucks to a local ad firm to come up with a new slogan for Midtown? And remember when all the ad firm did was bite off a Fleetwood Mac lyric and unveiled “Midtown: Go Your Own Way” on posters and window stickers?

The accepted wisdom behind this no-doubt sage 2010 investment was to brand the neighborhood as some modern sanctuary for the cultivated Sacramento dabbler. A destination for the kind of person who eats, shops, plays—then stumbles drunkenly, raucously back to their car after midnight through the neighborhoods—without a damn to give.

I go my own way, got it? Now where’s my free MBA T-shirt?

Fast-forward two years later: Whatever happened to that slogan? All those logo-emblazoned coffee mugs the MBA hoped would catch fire in Midtown nooks and kitchens? Not so much.

The lesson here is that these groaner attempts to brand neighborhoods seldom work. For locals, they’re sigh-inducing marketing campaigns that make people wish they’d moved to Hollywood Park. And for out-of-towners, they never rebrand districts in a meaningful way.

So, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when the Downtown Sacramento Partnership announced the latest attempt to rebrand the K Street Mall:

The group is changing K Street’s name to “The Kay.”

A plan is in the works to post new street signs between Seventh and 13th streets that proclaim this new name. A spokesperson from DSP explained to Jared Goyette of the Sacramento Press that the goal is to return to K Street’s roots—like J Street, the block was once spelled “K-A-Y”—and, as part of a larger campaign, better market the strip’s new businesses and restaurants.

Let me first say that I’m all for getting fresh blood excited about new downtown spots such as Broadacre Coffee and Blackbird Kitchen & Bar. These young entrepreneurs and others have smart ideas about food and drink, and they’re changing the K Street milieu in an encouraging way.

Why muck up a really good thing with some silly name like “The Kay”?

People always do branding backward. It’s not what you project onto consumers—you’re not going to convert locals to adopt such hokey vernacular as “The Kay.” Branding is what people perceive. And the perception of the K Street Mall is, for the first time in decades, trending upward.

So take that marketing budget and instead put it back into the businesses, with more bike racks or discounted parking. Mmmkay?

Perhaps in the future, architect Joe Yee or attorney Steve Hansen will spare Midtown and downtown of such tacky nomenclature. The two are in the final legs of a tight race to become the first city council member for the entire grid. Expect lots of unexpected knocks on the door and junk mail in the coming weeks, because successful electioneering is all about shameless invasion of neighborly space. Oh, and thick wads of cash.

Speaking of which: The city released third-quarter campaign-finance reports for both candidates last week.

Hansen’s pulled ahead in this battle for cushier coffers. He raised $71,085 in cash and nonmonetary contributions from 212 donors between June and September, including a handful of big gives, such as more than $10,000 from the Sacramento Police Officers Association and the Sacramento Area Fire Fighters Local 522. Hansen’s raked in more than $166,000 to date.

Yee took in $59,430 during this same period from 120 checkbooks. Local labor paved the way for nearly half of these donations, approximately $26,000, and the Sacramento City Teachers Association also chipped in $1,500. Yee’s raised nearly $129,000 this year.

The take-home? Hansen boasts a more robust “grassroots” donor base, but still has blue-chip interests. He also has twice as much cash on hand than Yee—which he’ll need to make inroads with presumably Yee-friendly Land Park voters.