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A Balcony View: Common knowledge is getting expensive

Those of us who write weekly columns know that coming up with topics can be problematic on occasion. This week was one of those times for me.

For the last few days, I thought I had a topic. I read a letter in the Mailbag section of the Glendale News-Press that got my journalist juices flowing. In her letter, Debi Devens believed that allowing President Obama to be heard in schools equated to indoctrination of our children. I was all set to blast the “Gary Fury” her way. Unfortunately, another reader, Claudette Moody, beat me to the punch with a fabulous and rational retort of her own. Rats!


With no other topic in mind, I was about to let my editor, Dan Evans, know that my well was dry and I had nothing to write about this week. But then, out of the parched topical desert of my mind came my personal lord and savior, North Star Destination Strategies. I could actually hear the choir singing in my mind.

Oh frabjous day.


Calloo! Callay! They had worked on our brand, and had something to say!

According to Kari Harris, North Star’s spokeswoman, “A survey of upscale Angelenos who live outside the city shows people know Glendale is between Pasadena and Burbank. But they really don’t know where Glendale is. It’s a clean city, but there isn’t much to do.”

In movies, this is where the music stops, the actors freeze and the sound of a needle scratching across a vinyl album can be heard.

Are you kidding me? We (and by we, I mean Glendale officials) waited months and agreed to pay thousands of dollars to hear that people outside of Glendale know our geographic proximity, and that we’re boring?


Attention Glendale City Council and Glendale Chamber of Commerce: I would have told you this for half the money in half the time. And if I’m too expensive, my 9- year-old daughter would have told you the same thing for a couple of boring movie passes and a ho-hum frozen yogurt.

But wait, there’s more! It seems that surveys of 537 people living in and around Glendale have revealed additional Earth-shattering, perception-altering revelations: Glendale is a great location, it has a healthy business mix, cultural diversity and a well-run municipality, and enhanced entertainment options would be the best way to draw more people here. Thank you for defining virtually every small city in America.

I’m sure that in the coming months, North Star’s next explosion of wisdom will reveal that we have a large Armenian population happily calling Glendale home. Oh wait, that would take a few thousand dollars and another survey, wouldn’t it?

Harris then alluded that our business districts and neighborhoods were not being communicated correctly. She used the branding strategies of Nabisco and Procter & Gamble as examples of companies that promote independent brands underneath an umbrella brand.


Ummm, if I were the one picking a big company with lots of products as an example of branding methodology, I wouldn’t have picked Ohio-based P&G or North Carolina-based Burt’s Bees. I might have picked Nestle, which has a huge corporate presence in Glendale.

But then again, why should North Star bother to overtax itself on the little things. We’re making it easy for them. Councilwoman Laura Friedman believes “this is an important part in helping our city compete.”

I want to know, what is this exactly?

And Rick Lemmo, vice president of community relations for Caruso Affiliated, which owns the Americana at Brand, believes “we have a unique opportunity. While the economy is on the front side of improving … we can get geared up.”

Opportunity? Geared up? For what?

North Star itself states: A brand is a pact with visitors and business. A successful brand keeps its commitment and delivers on its promise. I guess as far as the survey is concerned, we can deliver on our promise to remain conveniently located near Burbank.

I suppose with those kinds of consumer insights, it should be relatively easy for North Star to change perception with a logo, catchphrase, street banners and marketing materials during its two-year marketing effort.

Please, please, please. Isn’t it time to admit the emperor has no clothes? In other words, we hired an agency from Tennessee to come out here and tell us stuff we already knew. Does the polling of 537 people make those facts more relevant? Or does it just make them more expensive? Personally, I believe it is the latter.

But then again, what do I know. I always thought we were between Burbank and Eagle Rock — not Pasadena, as the North Star survey revealed.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is senior manager of communications for DIRECTV and a copywriting professor at Pasadena Art Center College of Design. Gary may be reached at