'Talent Packed' Austin residents unhappy with Spammy new town logo

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Austin wanted a new image.

A literal one, in the form of a new logo and slogan; and a figurative one, clear and consistent so the southern Minnesota city can be more easily marketed.

The local group Vision2020 worked for more than a year to make that happen, the Austin Daily Herald reported, contracting Minneapolis-based Haberman Consulting for advice and interviewing residents around town. And after all that work, Austin's new image was finally unveiled at a City Council meeting last month.

People don't like it.

The slogan is "Talent packed," and it's paired with a slightly peeled-back aluminum can featuring the words "Austin, Minnesota."

The image and slogan are a clear nod to Spam – the ham-in-a-can product that was invented by Hormel in Austin. It's not like the town is anti-Spam – the Spam Museum is located there – but as a way to promote the town, residents don't seem to be buying it.

"This logo does nothing to show Austin's true value, diversity, or talent. I understand Hormel is a big part of Austin, so is Spam, but we as a community are much more than just those two items," read one submission to Vision2020, according to the Post Bulletin.

And another: " ... something that is supposed to look like a Spam can is not a good idea."

The town's mayor even weighed in, telling the Star Tribune, "Most everybody didn’t like it right from the start ... I haven’t gotten one call in favor of it.”

The Austin Daily Herald says the project cost about $60,000, according to Helle. Of that, the Hormel Foundation – the non-profit connected to the company that created Spam – pitched in $35,000.

Laura Helle, the creative director for Vision 2020, tells the Daily Herald she's "very proud" of the logo, calling it "a great solution for the community." She tells the Star Tribune the nod to Spam is "something that another community can't claim."

“It’s a fun and light kind of concept: Peel back and see what you find here,” she continued.

The current logo for the town (a tree) is 20 years old, the Post Bulletin says. Helle told the publication she'd gotten complaints that prospective employees found the town's branding "disjointed and amateurish."

The city's website features no clear branding. The Star Tribune notes the Chamber of Commerce uses "Somewhere Special," while the Convention and Visitors Bureau touts "Spectacular People Austin Minnesota (SPAMTown)."

This new logo would eventually be all over – from signs, to official letters, to the new welcome center; an umbrella logo usable anywhere needed, Helle said. One clear, consistent image.

An editorial by the Daily Herald offered a scathing criticism of the creative process that birthed it.

"If Austin is 'talent packed,' why didn’t Austin residents design the logo?" the editorial asked. "The logo project cost about $60,000, but it’s unclear how much of that money went to Haberman and firms outside Austin. We agree with the logo in believing Austin is 'talent packed.' That’s why the money should have stayed in Austin."

The logo (and accompanying negative reaction) are expected to be discussed by the City Council Monday.

The city of Woodbury is actually in the beginning stages of its own rebranding project, as it tries to lure more businesses, conventions and new residents. The early working idea revolves around Woodbury being "The Center of ... " something. But what that is has yet to be determined.

A graphic designer recently did a critique of Minnesota city and town logos for the Streets.mn blog. The general consensus? Many are boring, outdated or both. Take a look for yourself and see.

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