Friday, April 24, 2009

Winnipeg Should Just Sell the Simple Life

I've been to so many meetings recently with all the entities responsible for "Selling Winnipeg to the World," and the only thing I've learned is that no one has any idea what to promote or who we truly are as a city.

What is the unique selling point of Winnipeg? Is it cheap Hydro? The amount of sunshine? The upcoming Canadian Museum for Human Rights? Or maybe its our steady economy or our growth potential being the center of North America? Ask yourself this, would you move your entire family and business to a new city for a museum or for cheap hydro? The answer to all these questions is no.

We are in a very unique time as Winnipeggers in that the opportunity to be a leader as a city on a national level has never been so readily available since the early 1900's. At that time, it was our location and natural resources that gave us the title as one of the fastest growing cities on the continent. We all know what's happened since then, but because those same reasons for our rapid growth exist today, I think there is a fundamental question that we are failing to ask. Do we want to be the next Toronto or Vancouver? I think the answer again is no.

Majority of the campaigns that have ran recently - such as Spirited Energy, or more recently, "We Believe in Winnipeg"- touch on the idea of the ease of life in Winnipeg, but none seem to feel this is enough to make people want to relocate their home or business here. I think it is.

People that crave the pace of life or ego stroke that comes with living in Toronto or New York have no interest in Winnipeg. They would find us way too boring. And if you ask a Winnipegger, they don't want them. It is the simple life that makes Winnipeg appealing.

Yes these campaigns make mention of the friendly people and the fact that you are an hour away from being on a lake at the cabin; but they all seem to then mask this by sending a message that puts us in competition with Vancouver or Calgary. We can't compete with them because, at our core, Winnipeggers don't carry the same values. If we did, we'd live there.

Why not run a global campaign called "Winnipeg - the simple life" and really focus on this as a benefit. That you can relocate your family and start the small business you've always dreamed of and have a fighting chance of success in our market. That we choose rather to work to live than live to work. Sure there are some workaholics in Winnipeg, but ask most people and all they want to do is get through the day to enjoy a drink on a patio on Corydon or a round of golf with their buddies.

By focusing our marketing plan as a city on what we will eventually be once CentrePort Canada is built and once we figure out rapid transit, people outside of the city who receive this probably think "Hmm... maybe I'll move to Winnipeg once all this is done?" Instead we should be looking to attract the people who are thinking "Man I hate waiting in traffic for 2 hours everyday, never seeing my family, burnt out. Winnipeg sounds like a great place to relocate to start enjoying my life again."

What this also does is help the younger generations realize how good they have it. Instead of our media focusing on the negatives of living in Winnipeg, and staring wide eyed at the Vancouver's of Canada like a horny teenager, let's laugh at how these other cities are so lost in their egos that they need to work 20 hours a day just to feel important enough to sit in their new Mercedes for 3 hours in rush hour traffic; all the while I've already gone to the gym, had a long walk with my wife and watched the latest movie I've been dying to see. Youth want entertainment, not work. The only reason larger cities seem appealing is because you make more money which provides more entertainment. Help them realize they can do it all right here, with less work and enough pay to live a happy life.

Ask most Winnipeggers who've travelled or lived in big city centres and you tend to get the same answer, "great place to visit, but I'd never live there." And for those reading this that have never left Winnipeg, my guess is you're all the biggest whiners. Take a trip, so when you come home you can once again realize how good we have it.

Its the KISS syndrome Winnipeg. Let's do what we're good at which is working hard through the winter so we can play in the summer. Enough of trying to be like all the other cities, its time they started envying us.