Every now and then you see something just enough out of place to twist your mind a little. I’m not talking about something that’s obviously in the wrong place or something that is in bad taste. I’m talking about something that would make perfect sense, if it were in a slightly different place.

I live in Austin, Texas. Lots of good things about it. Also lots of bad things about it. But none of them is the point of this post. One of the grassroots marketing campaign by local businesses is the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign. You see this slogan on T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, coffee mugs…the list goes on. It started a few years ago in response to an increase in big box and chain stores. The whole point is that for many years, Austin has enjoyed a reputation for being a little off-kilter…especially when compared to the rest of Texas.

Austin has several bedroom communities which were originally townships in their own right. One of them, Round Rock, seems to have latched on to the “Keep Austin Weird” idea. I’ve seen a number of bumper stickers reading “Keep Round Rock a Little Less Weird Than Austin”. I admit I got a chuckle out of seeing that, and as a marketing idea, it seems to have worked. Another bedroom community, Pflugerville, has almost set itself up in opposition with a “Keep Pflugerville Normal” campaign. A little less effective, especially since it only works in relation to the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.

With that in mind, I saw something a while back that twisted my mind a little. I was driving through Pflugerville to teach a private lesson when I saw a billboard for 7-11 convenience stores. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself; after all, every business needs to advertise. What caught my eye was the billboard’s tag-line. Normally, if you think of a 7-11 tag-line, you’ll probably come up with “Oh, thank Heaven!” Nope. Not even close. This Pflugerville billboard’s tag-line was “Around Every Weird Little Corner”.

It took me a while to realize why the billboard bothered me. The slogan was awkward and didn’t really mean anything. Then I realized it was about five miles too far northeast. It might have been a good idea. After all, they’re acknowledging (or at least trying to acknowledge) the uniqueness of Austin, play upon its citizens’ pride of where they live. (More cynically, they’re trying to piggyback on an already existing and successful marketing campaign.) Either way, putting a billboard touting “weird”ness in a community that takes pride in “Keep[ing] Pflugerville Normal” seems like such a basic error that I just had to roll my eyes. I’m not sure whether to laugh or pity the advertising group.

Yes, it’s maintained TOPA (Top of Mind Awareness), one of the major goals of any marketing campaign. Unfortunately for them, it’s not a “let’s go to 7-11” awareness, it’s now filed in my mind as “marketing campaign that brained itself coming out of the gate.”

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