Save The Planet: Move To Buffalo

By Griffin Jones

The city of Buffalo has less than half of the population that it did in 1950. People have used that truth as a negative descriptor of Buffalo ever since. How could the same truth be a marketing advantage today?

People want to feel like they’re decent caretakers of the environment. Yet, we all do things to the contrary until our behavior becomes socially unacceptable and more eco-friendly alternatives become the norm .  This is the time to position the first of Buffalo’s new marketing attributes. With seven billion (and growing) human beings on the planet, it is impossible to be good stewards of the environment without rehabilitating existing urban spaces like Buffalo.

New York City’s population is fast approaching 8.4 million people over 300 square miles. They should hang a No Vacancy sign over the Freedom Tower. Toronto has added hundreds of square miles to its greater metro area within the last few decades. These cities  are usually space-efficient in their inner core, but they have to develop new land to accommodate growing populations. Never mind the uncontrolled growth of cities like Houston.

Therefore (all things being equal), moving to  Buffalo is better for the Earth that moving to most major cities  anywhere in the world.

Ok, I desperately need a photographer and a graphic design artist that want to work on this with me, but there are very few ideas that can lead someone to begin changing their mind. This is one of them.

The image has to be painted of a Before and After

1). When we grow:

A vacant Victorian building at a littered corner at Grant and LaFayette.

The beautiful facade of Sweetness 7 Cafe with the lovely plants they have outside.

2). When they grow:

An overcrowded city street

A bulldozer excavating a beautiful wooded area.

3). Keep Our Planet Beautiful: Choose Buffalo

Which would you rather see turned into condos? This?

Which would you rather see turned into condos? This…

Or This?

Or This?


Buffalo’s Tipping Point: Timing Is Everything

By Griffin Jones

“Someone like me wouldn’t move to a place like Buffalo until we were certain that Buffalo was going to improve well beyond where it is now,”

This Catch-22 is exactly why Buffalo is just on the horizontal side of its Tipping Point. It’s also why Buffalo needs a push right now in the form of increased involvement from people who already live in the Buffalo area. We need talented people from outside of the area to continue our city’s rehabilitation, yet Buffalo has to progress  further in order to be attractive to them.

Buffalo’s improvement has increased rapidly over the last  ten years. The sharp decline of the y axis through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s has been blunted. It’s too soon to tell; as of the 2010 Census, Buffalo had still lost more than ten percent of its population, but qualitatively, Buffalo has turned a corner.

Hertel Avenue on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

Hertel Avenue on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

Patriots of Buffalo are very encouraged, as well they should be. But every movement requires a few vertical spikes at various points  in their trajectory to preserve momentum. Whether it was the Civil Rights Movement or the market domination of Apple, there were powerful events that rapidly accelerated gains amid otherwise relatively slow and steady progress.

Based on the course of Buffalo’s improvement over the last decade, a “push” to accelerate momentum is necessary now. Buffalo needs the talent and experience of more people from other areas to advance. The thoughts that opened this post (from an entrepreneur from Boston) articulate the barrier to this breakthrough.

I will go into detail about how Buffalo pushes over this Tipping Point over the next few points. Just know, Buffalo’s time is now, and we need all hands on deck.

Does anyone know how to make charts?

Buffalo’s Brand: Five New Ways to Position the City of Good Neighbors

By Griffin Jones

Most of us probably know that Buffalo is a more positive and active city than it was fifteen years ago.  There have been some very cool improvements around town, like a better cycling infrastructure, renovated buildings for lofts and hotels, more urban gardens, and finally a nice simple park by the water. More so, the zeitgeist is more patriotic, more tenacious, and less self-defeatist.

Those are all incredible victories considering they are mostly the fruits of a relatively small number of  women and men who labor tirelessly for our city. But to my experience, most people from larger, more cosmopolitan cities simply aren’t impressed when they visit.

True patriots of Buffalo

True patriots of Buffalo

And that’s because of Buffalo’s positioning. We have tried for decades to position Buffalo as having everything the best cities in the world have to offer. But Buffalo cannot win in a face to face comparison with Toronto, Philadelphia, San Francisco or New York. We cannot win in any of the broad categories of art, innovation, dining, or night life. (Their) perception is reality.

“Positioning” means taking the opposite side of the same axiom of truth. That means we have to admit and acknowledge the perceived truth that Buffalo is not a major city, and therefore does not have most of the attributes of a major city.

Once we’ve done that, we can correctly identify the attributes that make that truth a positive instead of a negative. But don’t start with affordability and lack of congestion. While highly valuable they can reinforce an existing negative perception if they’re the lead attributes.

The five most important attributes of Buffalo are in this order

1). Environmental Stewardship. Most major cities are at maximum capacity with their existing infrastructure. In order to grow, they must expand their metro areas; developing farmland, wetlands, and woodlands– contributing to the rapid destruction of our environment. To protect our planet, we must conserve and rehabilitate unused and readily available space in urban areas like Buffalo and the rest of the Rust Belt.

2). Individual Significance. In a metro area of of 10 million people, one person’s ability to have an impact may be limited. In a city of a quarter million people, small changes go a long way (i.e. Massachusetts Avenue Project, Five Points Bakery).

3). Active Participation. You can move to a city that offers a unique, engaging, environment, or you can help to create that environment. Self-actualization in this civic form is an extremely fulfilling feeling.

4). Artistic Freedom (Affordability). Ultimately the culture in wealthier cities will suffer because artists on the fringes cannot afford to live there.

5). Freedom of Movement (Lack of Congestion). Traffic is the enemy of quality of life.

These are the five attributes of Buffalo’s authentic marketing position. They are genuine, and they are based off of the same axiom that people already accept; the same one from which people have used to build negative opinions of Buffalo for years. I want to put some effort into activating this brand position, but frankly we need a range of talents. Who wants to make this happen?!

Cause Marketing: Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

By Griffin Jones

Of course everyone should be involved with a cause to create the best possible version of themselves. And not just financial contributions to a charity, but truly believing in, advocating for, and wholeheartedly participating in the cause. So too for businesses. Many businesses (particularly large corporations) pick a cause celeb, slap whatever color ribbon on their product, and donate 2% from every purchase. Like any marketing technique, there’s nothing remarkable here, and it certainly doesn’t tug at any heart strings.

In the digital age, the only way to make a full impact with cause marketing is to be a tireless champion for the cause. Anything less goes unnoticed or worse, comes across as disingenuous. Now everyone knows I make no bones about my favoritism for the Made In America Store, and this is why.

I was at a country music festival this past Fourth of July weekend sponsored by the Made In America Store. Most sponsors would set up a booth, hang up a couple signs, and leave early. Could you blame them? It’s the Fourth of July, who wouldn’t want to be relaxing by the pool with a cold one?

Yet, all three nights, MIA Store owner Mark Andol, showed his patriotism through his actions. He took the stage, praised the flag, encouraged everyone to show their gratitude to the troops, and spilled his pride for American workmanship. He walked through the crowd and thanked veterans for their service. He had a smile from ear to ear like he always does.

If you want to be successful at cause marketing, take a page out of that guy’s book. Cause marketing only works if you truly care about the cause. No one does that better than the Made In America Store.