- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — This city has an image problem.

Three critically acclaimed television crime and drug drama shows are partly to blame, said a report by image consultants hired by Baltimore’s tourism officials.

“The perception of Baltimore is ‘The Wire,’ ‘The Corner,’ ‘Homicide (Life on the Street)’ … a hopeless, depressed, unemployed, crack-addicted city,” the report states.

The solution? A new brand for Baltimore — what is known in the tourism industry as “destination repositioning.”

“Changing perceptions is what we’ve been hired to do,” Susan Palombo, director of brand strategy for Landor Associates, told Mayor Martin O’Malley and the City Council at a meeting Monday.

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) will pay Landor Associates $500,000. The company has built brands for such locations as Madrid, the state of Florida and Hong Kong, as well as Gatorade, Altoids and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The company is expected to come up with a half-dozen concepts for Baltimore by next month, and a decision on the brand is expected by April, BACVA’s president, Leslie R. Doggett, told the Baltimore Sun.

The strategy is to create a positive perception that attracts tourists and conventions, which in turn can boost the local economy.

Baltimore has tried other slogans, including “Charm City,” “The City That Reads,” and “The Greatest City in America.” None of them caught on.

Often used instead were unflattering nicknames: the “Heroin Capital” and the “Murder Capital.”

Miss Palombo said Baltimore will have to avoid comparing itself to other cities such as the District, Boston and New York, which have an “established place in the hearts and minds of travelers.”

Instead, the brand must build on Baltimore’s unique character.

The city’s most prominent positive feature, Landor’s research showed, is the Inner Harbor. The waterfront’s location near Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T; Bank Stadium add to downtown’s allure.

“The waterfront is the critical point of difference for Baltimore,” said the report, which was delivered to city officials Monday.

The consultants also found that the city’s history, including its black heritage, provide important attractions.

In addition, Landor found that Baltimore residents are proud of their neighborhoods and their provincial, “genuine” character — what the report called “the Hon factor.”

“Baltimore is a ‘little big city’ with all of the assets and attractions of a larger city but the charm, accessibility and convenience of a small town environment,” the report states.

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