Our Northwest

Puyallup attendance drained by new brand?

Friday, September 27, 2013by  Jon Osterberg

As of Sept. 24, overall attendance had not been announced for the Sept. 6-22 Washington State Fair, formerly the Puyallup Fair.
   A Tacoma News Tribune article speculates it’s because attendance was down, perhaps even below its 1 million-plus standard.
   If attendance did drop, could it stem from the new name? “The Puyallup Fair” and its catchy “Do The Puyallup” theme song were well-established brands that owned a good share of consumers’ minds. Despite fair promoters’ claims to the contrary, I can’t recall the slogan or jingle being used this year.
   It wouldn’t be the first time a rebranding effort stumbled or flopped.
   JC Penney tried to reinvent itself in recent years with new leadership, new ads, new pricing, and fewer promotions. “Everyday low prices” flopped. Recently, JC Penney rehired its old CEO and is desperately trying to recapture lost customers.
   “New Coke” is the classic example of failed rebranding. Sales fizzled so badly in 1985 that within months the old formula returned under the name “Coca-Cola Classic.”
   But unlike Coke, our state fair didn’t alter its formula. Perhaps a better local example is Pyramid Breweries. Pyramid had a classic, highly recognized logo but decided in the mid-2000s to adopt a new look that would appeal to younger adults. Pyramid even created new names for its popular brews, such as “Haywire” for its Hefeweizen.
   I despised Pyramid’s new look, and perhaps consumers agreed. In 2011 the classic logo returned, slightly updated.
   Washington State Fair’s board of directors aimed to broaden the appeal of the fair and grow attendance by expanding its market with a statewide moniker. Officially, the Puyallup’s prior name had been the Western Washington State Fair.
   I love scones, onion burgers, livestock displays, and even the kitschy sales barkers at the fair. I hope the event thrives. I just can’t help but think it would do better if they brought back that jingle next year.
   Do The Puyallup.

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