Parsing the Pitch

“Branding” merchandise obviously works, but “branding” a legendary beach town is akin to ungilding the  lily, which is probably not what our hapless marketeers and their consultants had in mind.

In fact, Santa Monica has long resided in the pantheon of brands, along with super-stars whose first names are sufficient, and other super-places — Hyannisport, Carmel, Taos – whose names alone tell the whole story.

When network TV/radio newscasters refer to our town, they say “Today in Santa Monica…” without any modifiers. They do not say, “Today in Santa Monica, a southern California beach town…”

Apparently, our marketeers and their consultants are among a handful of people, some of whom are in City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce, who  think Santa Monica needs an explanation.

That’s bad, but their explanation, aka “brand promise,” is worse, as it buries this wholly idiosyncratic town in  clichés.

It begins by giving Santa Monica a supporting role  (“Santa Monica…the best way to discover L.A.”). Then, it   reduces the beach to a meaningless generality (“an unforgettable beach experience.”) and follows it with a trio of banalities (“eye-catching people… cutting-edge culture and bold innovations.”), and closes with the penultimate cliché (“It is the essence of the California lifestyle.”).


Many years ago, when branding was   limited to livestock, someone wrote a seven-word slogan for Santa Monica  that, despite what must have been an inadvertent reference to “Babbitt,”still POPS: “The zenith city by the sundown sea.”


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