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Saturday, October 31, 2020
Opinion In Market: How now Cowtown, part deux

In Market: How now Cowtown, part deux

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

The column last week on moooving on from the Cowtown moniker elicited quite a few ye-haws, whoops and hollers from readers.

Even more key, people using our online comments section were actually civil, respectful and not purveying spam. No one offered any online college essays or information on local storage buildings, which seems to be our spammers’ favorite topics.

For once, the internet worked like Al Gore intended. Maybe it was the end of Net Neutrality?

To summarize last week’s In Market, I wrote about the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and a speaker who discussed working to change a city’s branding. Specifically, he – and I –discussed Fort Worth’s Cowtown image. The speaker, by the way, was from Richmond, Virginia, a city that for years had been branding itself as the “Capital of the Confederacy,” not, he noted, a very popular or helpful marketing tool in 2018.

Former Fort Worth Councilman Clyde Picht noted in his online comment that he was not in favor of the city-owned longhorn herd, arguing that aviation was a better focus than cattle. “The rest of the council disagreed and we kept the high-cost longhorns and dismissed the idea of an aviation museum. Maybe we can ease into the 21st Century by giving the herd to stockyard businesses to support if it has such a favorable economic impact and changing our logo to an F-35 with horns.”

A couple of posters noted that a Cowtown image was a long way from being associated with the Confederacy. Good point.

Allen Wallach of PAVLOV wrote a thoughtful post that embraced our western culture and history as a way the city sets itself apart.

“Trying to hide our western heritage just to be perceived as yet another, nondescript cosmopolitan city is a mistake,” he said. “Fort Worth is a marvel of modern placemaking, with all of the sophisticated attributes and amenities a citizen or visitor could want – but it ALSO has one thing that other cities do not: an authentic Texas vibe for those who want it. In this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As a city, we are better embracing both our cowboys AND culture.”

We have some other nicknames besides Cowtown, of course. We’re known as Panther City, though that one takes some explanation. There’s also Funky Town, but that has been somewhat limited to the Eastside and the Southside until recently. Where the West Begins is a good slogan, too, but St. Louis might have something to say about it.

There’s a T-shirt shop in town called Not Dallas that makes a handful of logos that point out how Fort Worth is different from Dallas, which it calls on its website the “Los Angeles of Texas.” Or as Wallach put it in his post: “There is a saying: ‘if you want to see Atlanta, go to Dallas.’ It has a lot of designs that point out that if Fort Worth is one thing, it’s not Dallas. It’s always hard to build on a negative, I’ve found, but I think they’re on to something. And they’re pretty funny, too. (www.notdallas.com)

One thing to keep in mind is that Cowtown is not an official nickname and it is certainly not exclusive to Fort Worth. Check out Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, even several towns in Arizona. They use the Cowtown moniker from time to time. Chicago seems to have managed OK without being hobbled by the cow connotation.

All these ideas seem to beg the question: What are we besides Cowtown? Picht’s idea about aviation certainly has merit. Not sure I’m ready for a F-35 with horns, but it’s a starting point. Keep the ideas coming.

Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.

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