Q&A - December 13, 2015

In a recent online posting, Okmulgee Main Street requested input from the general public to help name our historic downtown. This was one of the recommendations made by Roger Brooks, a community image consultant, when he visited Okmulgee earlier this year.

An email address has been dedicated specifically for your name submissions. So here is your chance to help name our downtown; just email nameourdowntown@yahoo.com with your ideas! All suggestions will be considered.

Q: We have always just called it downtown Okmulgee. Why does it need a name?

To adequately discuss this topic, we could get into an in depth conversation about the merits of strategic destination marketing or the commercial viability of successful urban branding. But I see no reason to overthink this because each of us inherently knows that names are important. They help us identify, distinguish, and remember many of the different things and places we encounter in life.

You have to admit that travel plans would be much more difficult without names associated with our favorite destinations on the map. Continents and islands have names, as do countries and states. County and city names help us narrow our focus, but sometimes travelers need a name to help attract them to a micro destination within a city.

For instance, suppose a friend told you she had recently visited a nice park in Anaheim? Your first response might be, “So what? Don’t most towns have parks?” The description provided was adequate; it told you what she visited and where it was located but did not leave you overly intrigued. But, if she told you the name of the park in Anaheim was “Disneyland,” you would probably be much more interested—same place but a very different reaction. In this case, the name of the park triggers your imagination and conjures up all kinds of anticipation.

No one is trying to compare downtown Okmulgee to Disneyland, but the marketing principles are quite similar. So, how about an example that is much closer to home. In the early 1980’s, few would have guessed that abandoned warehouse buildings in one of the oldest and most rundown districts of Oklahoma City could be transformed into a popular entertainment destination filled with trendy shops and restaurants, but that is exactly what has happened. With a little imagination and planning, this farfetched vision has become a reality known as “Bricktown.” The developers all agree that the name has contributed greatly to its success. After all, how many businesses and visitors would it attract if it was still called the Oklahoma City warehouse district?

The fact of the matter is that nearly every town, large or small, has something they refer to as “downtown.” This designation is not a distinction. If we want our downtown to be distinct from every other downtown, it needs a name. If we want downtown Okmulgee to become a micro destination, it must have a name that will attract business and visitors. The shorter the better. The clearer, the better. The easier to say and type, the better.

Please send your questions or comments to me at osuit-president@okstate.edu.