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I’ve got your ‘branding effort’ right here

No ridiculous, peppy promotion attempt by the Twin Cities will hide the cold, hard reality of Minnesota winter.

It took me a while to warm up to the “Driven To Discover” branding effort for the University, but now I think it is a great promotional tool and I am in favor of it, very much behind it and on board.

However, I am positive I will never like the new Twin Cities branding effort, “Minneapolis Saint Paul: More to Life!”

Your eyes do not deceive you, a hyphen is missing and “Paul” has become a spelled-out religious “Saint” instead of a more secular abbreviation.

Somebody must be posturing to the religious fundamentalists in the GOP.

No, indeed, I am cold to this lame branding effort and I will never warm up. Stick the hot branding iron against my posterior all you want, but I am like an icicle, a snow bank. The branding iron will not mark me and change me as though I were, for example, a doomed and obedient cow.

First of all, what will happen to the simple indigenous people of Hyphenistan who depend on the Twin Cities to help consume their free range organic hyphens for production of the phrase “Minneapolis-St. Paul?”

The corporate clones that came up with this idea, described as a “joint effort between Minneapolis and Saint Paul (note spelling) to promote the entire region” clearly didn’t know a thing about marketing their slogan. If they had a clue, they would have taken Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman out for an expensive dinner and gotten him on board for the promotion or, at least, convinced Coleman to stifle any opposition.

Only because Coleman spoke out against the branding effort would I (a lowly college columnist) voice my opposition or, for that matter, even know about the branding effort.

But because a respected local writer like Coleman attacked the effort, including its attempt to minimize severe winters in Minnesota, I feel emboldened to criticize the branding effort, too, especially on the issue of minimizing our winter weather.

Minnesota is the icebox of the continental United States and no amount of ridiculous peppy promotion will manage to hide that cold, hard reality. Here in Minnesota routine weather conditions are described as a “snow emergency” which supposedly requires civil liberties to be suspended, and private vehicles to be seized and towed off the public streets, held for ransom at an impound lot.

College students, especially, suffer from “non-consent” towing issues in the Twin Cities because of initial unfamiliarity with the city. Also, I think there is a perception in city governments everywhere college students can be preyed upon without political consequences.

Having “More to Life” in Minnesota does not require a branding effort, but a complete cultural shift in our attitude toward winter. We need to see ourselves as others see us, and massively reform our culture so people will want to move here the way they want to move to, for example, Phoenix, Austin, Orlando, or Las Vegas.

What happens when folks come to visit our state and they get their car towed during a “snow emergency?” Will they ever want to come back?

Maybe, during the Republican National Convention in September, we should just randomly tow the vehicles of convention attendees so they can truly have an authentic taste of the Twin Cities.

Right now, many students at this University are planning to enjoy Spring Break in warmer climates more suited to the human species. I would urge students to take note of how things are done in warm climates and think about why some climates are more associated with comfort and luxury instead of survival and struggle.

Ask people in places like Daytona Beach, Florida about their perceptions of life in Minnesota.

When I was in kindergarten, I loved winter and would just about cry at the thought heavy snow might not come to Minnesota in time for Christmas.

But when I was in first grade, I came down with life-threatening pneumonia. My sister tells me how I was so feverish I laid down in a fluffy snow bank as though it were a warm, welcoming bed, and refused to get up while she ran into the house, screaming for our mother.

That month I spent in the hospital killed my love of Minnesota winters. Years I spent away in warm climates (Virginia, South Carolina, Texas and the coast of Washington State) made me feel like I was cheating the icy grip of winter, like every day outside Minnesota was Spring Break. I developed the ability to see Minnesota winter the way “outsiders” from warm climates saw our state.

Extreme heat is a problem in El Paso, Texas, but every place has air conditioning. You dash from one air conditioned space to another. Even if there is not air conditioning, as when one waits for a bus or pumps gas, there is usually a structure thoughtfully provided to create enough shade for comfort. The climate is extreme, but people deal with it.

In Minnesota, we do not deal with winter. We deny it and tell ourselves we enjoy it, like an abusive relationship.

If we weren’t in denial, bus shelters would be enclosed and heated. Every building on our campus would be accessible by warm tunnel systems. It would be possible to walk from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis by heated skyways.

At the very least, the place you wait for the light rail at Mall of America would be warm and comfortable. Dude. How lame is that?

In a true “winter wonderland,” you could pump gas without freezing your face. Cars would never get towed during so-called “snow emergencies” because machines would suck the snow out of the street, including the area around your vehicle, without requiring you to move.

A great branding effort would be possible in such a world. We could say “Minnesota: A Warm Winter Wonderland.” Visitors would say “you hardly have to experience winter there, unless you like winter sports. So when you experience winter, it’s by choice, and it’s a treat.”

Yeah, I’ve got your “branding effort.” Right here, baby.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected].

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