“It’s New Orleans. You’re Different Here.” Or are you? How does one ‘brand’ a place that has just been devastated? Where does it even start? Does the process of design or visual communication even matter at this scale of suffering? To the people of New Orleans–who depend on tourism after major economic shifts in the 50s and 70s–it does.
After the physical devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the ensuing media maelstrom resulted in a tarnish settling over the image of the South’s multi-faceted and multi-cultured gem. So the problem is then very specifically a branding one. The people of New Orleans and Louisiana would take care of the physical space. Peter Mayer Advertising would help handle the image with a multi-faceted campaign explained in part here.
Though this is not a full look at the incredible body of work Peter Mayer produced for its city it brings to mind some intriguing questions about the role branding places in defining place, or redefining it. Commercial art has not ever been shy about its role in manufacturing image. When combined with the discipline of design and the psychology of Peter Mayer’s public relations team, the city of New Orleans was beneficiary to a positive aspect of branding. A real physical city with real and tangible and hurting people needed real help to bring the tourism dollars back.
I have heard arguments on the impossibility of branding something as public and multi-variabled as a modern city. In this case, we see undeniable evidence of success. Though we in America will forever remember the travesty of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some songs ultimately go unsung when things are being rebuilt. In this case, New Orleans is still standing and probably stronger than ever. The city’s people are survivors. The campaign to keep the economy going through tourism dollars was not only a success in branding, but also a shining example of the benefits of commercial art in our society.
I was privy to a lecture fully explaining this body of work through my local Pensacola Bay Area Advertising Federation. Though I understand the ethical implications of generating this type of work for something as ephemeral as a city and its people, it was an incredible experience to witness firsthand the effect the work could have. The potential for art and creative thinking to influence people around the world into visiting a specific region is no small task. It was a pleasure to more fully empathize with the reasoning behind attempting such a task, but also in grasping that ‘re-building’ a city is not always about plywood and nails. Our cities are complex. Keeping them going often requires complex systems of communication and influence that have a global reach. Who better to attempt this mammoth task than a local and passionate agency with Peter Mayer?
Follow their work here. They’ve grown with their city. What type of relationship do you have with yours?