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On my way to “Keep Austin Weird”

Posted by admin on: January 27th, 2011

Weather permitted, I’ll be flying out this morning to Austin, Texas to participate in the Cyberspace Institute of the American Bar Association Business Law Section. I’ll be speaking on Friday morning on Trademark Strategies for 2012 – “Is There an App for That?”

My trip to Austin has got me thinking…. “KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD” is one of the coolest slogans around. It is distinctive, creative, and it makes you think. And, I presume, it succinctly sums up a city that has a lot of culture to offer.

As I have written about previously, many cities use slogans to brand and promote themselves. It seems that the KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD slogan has a storied history, and it is owned by a company, not by a public agency or chamber of commerce. See below for some links to stories about the slogan, including a dispute over the trademark.

Here are a few other interesting registered slogans that promote Austin:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More details about the “Keep Austin Weird” trademark:

  • Wikipedia entry
  • a book called “Weird City” by By Joshua Long. From the publisher’s website:
  • “Keep Austin Weird” originated in 2000 as a grassroots expression of place attachment and anti-commercialization. Its popularity has led to its use as a rallying cry for local business, as a rhetorical tool by city governance, and now as the unofficial civic motto for a city experiencing rapid growth and transformation. By using “Keep Austin Weird” as a central focus, Joshua Long explores the links between sense of place, consumption patterns, sustainable development, and urban politics in Austin. Research on this phenomenon considers the strong influence of the “Creative Class” thesis on Smart Growth strategies, gentrification, income inequality, and social polarization made popular by the works of Richard Florida. This study is highly applicable to several emerging “Creative Cities,” but holds special significance for the city considered the greatest creative success story, Austin.
  • Bad Guys Get the Trademark: The folks at Absolutely Austin (a.k.a. Nobonz, Outhouse Design, Udamon, etc.), who make most of the T-shirts, hats, and some of the bumperstickers you see, got the trademark for “Keep Austin Weird” in October 2003. We realize most people don’t care, and for good reasons. We invented the phrase, did the original bumperstickers, and put up this website before they were out of their diapers, so forgive us for being a touch defensive and probably egotistic.
  • The real problem with this turn of events is that it points out the boring irony of the entire “movement” (to use a grandiose term). It was a small attempt to counter Austin’s descent into rampant commercialism and over-development. Absolutely Austin getting the trademark rather than letting this chicken run free is a sad proof that commercialism is winning. Most people probably think of Keep Austin Weird as a marketing slogan rather than our original attempt to highlight those aspects of our town that are really weird. Making money isn’t high on that list.  And they are enforcing the trademark, getting desist orders to folks who were making T-shirts.

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One Response
  1. jsbh says:

    Love the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan – good for the cool people who came up with that and want Austin to remain unique in the world of malls and big box stores. Go EIP!