Branding a Bland Holland

Time for another lunchtime post. Today’s topic: Bland branding and my hometown. As a point of order, if you follow my blog, I apologize for being all of the map with my topics. I have so many varying interests, I couldn’t keep myself to posting about one certain thing on a blog.

I grew up in Holland, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. For a very interesting, and fresh, summary of what my hometown area is like, head on over to The Atlantic and their American Futures special series. Holland is the first city that James Fallows is visiting (updates started Sunday, 11 August 2013.

Perusing through his first posts, I noticed that James hit on something that I have complained about on Twitter in the past. He put the following one-liner in his notes about the flight path he chose (flying a small aircraft to visit the cities for this series): “Tulip City Airport (which now has some more boring generic name) in Holland, MI.

I completely agree with the “more boring generic name” for Tulip City Airport, now known as West Michigan Regional Airport. The new name was adopted in 2011 after Zeeland and Park Township came together (after voting) with Holland to form a new airport authority (read the Sentinel’s wrap-up). The new name has no more geographic meaning to it than it did before; I would argue that the new name has even less meaning. To an outsider, West Michigan could be Grand Rapids, it could be South Haven, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Ludington, or even Traverse City. At least Tulip City conveyed the sense that it was related to Holland, which is on the west side of Michigan.

Similarly, the once aptly-named Holland Area Chamber of Commerce (with the simple logo, below) also decided to rename itself. What did they choose? West Coast Chamber; yet another broad and bland brand. The new logo has no basis to tell you which region this applies to – west coast of what? It doesn’t reference any of the history or geography of the area, and certainly doesn’t enforce any type of regional identity.




New (and not improved)


I don’t know the history of either branding effort. I do know if if they surveyed business experts, or, if they did, what the survey results are. My only guess is that some people’s feathers were ruffled that Zeeland doesn’t get full bill, or Holland or Park Townships are being ignored, so someone felt like a re-branding was needed to keep people happy. If so, that’s unfortunate and unnecessary.

I do know that, amongst various people I’ve talked to, mainly Millennials, that they enjoyed the original names and don’t agree, at all, with the new branding efforts. Regional identity and cultural association are very important to the younger generations. To me, the blanding of these brands leads to a “better than crappy makes us happy” (thanks Steve) type of feeling. No one can hate the new brands, but they certainly don’t excite anyone.

Bring back my Tulip City and the Holland Area Chamber (or at least be more thoughtful about the immediate regional identity)! Be proud of Holland and its region. Don’t shy away from the history and culture that makes people aware of this area.


One Reply to “Branding a Bland Holland”

  1. Yeah, I agree. Both these names are worse than what they replaced. They’re completely meaningless to an outsider, and mostly meaningless to a local.

    It makes sense that Tulip City is in Holland, but where is West Michigan Regional Airport? I imagine it was picked to sound bigger and more impressive, but it lots all personality in the process. Generic, Sterile.

    The Chamber is a disappointing change too, but hey, I just got nominated for the Chamber Board, so at least I’ll be complaining from inside! 😉

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