I have a great appreciation for any instance where someone takes a moment to consider the way something placed in the public eye will look. I love when a little embellishment is added to something utilitarian, or when a feature is added to a house that is not necessarily required for habitation, but for style or fun. We can argue later as to whether it is attractive or not- as long as someone made an effort, I’m happy. Of course it’s more cost-effective to make a plain box for a bedroom. So this is always done with added cost.

Instead of making just a functional metal disc to cover the access hole for the water meters, the New Orleans Sewage & Water Board have included a very nicely-designed logo. Why would a utility company need a professionally designed logo? It’s not like they need to lure us to use them instead of a competitor. But it has been rather advantageous for them from a PR standpoint.
New Orleans has a problem with people destroying the cemeteries. It’s not just vandals, gangs and looters breaking off ornamentation to sell to antique shops. It is also people making gravestone rubbings. This is the practice of placing a piece of paper over a stone and rubbing chalk or pencil over the stone to get an impression of the stone. This is usually OK, but popular stones that receive many rubbings and old, fragile stones are harmed by this. Luckily, The Association of Gravestone Studies (I’m not making this up) used to offer a leaflet called: “Grave Rubbing for Beginners.” I mean, I guess that’s better than rubbing the locals (if you’re a tourist) and vice versa. Or to quote the leaflet: Learn to rub responsibly.

Locals seem to understand and appreciate the errors of grave rubbing (ever more vigilant policing of the cemeteries helps). Many (except the mopey Goth set) have taken to taking rubbings from the S&WB’s cover plates. We received one of these as a wedding present from one of our artsy NOLA friends.
Not only that, there is a local industry that makes art based on the S&WB logo. There are trivets, coasters, actual powder-coated, bronzed & enameled plates, jewelry, charms, ceramic wall hangings, T-Shirts (I wear one), Mouse pads, and lots of other stuff. It has better brand recognition than Mickey Mouse in New Orleans. PLEASE check out the Flash animation on it’s website. It should not be missed.

With its positive representation of New Orleans Art, not to mention their great customer service and jump to action after Katrina, we can say they have achieved “brand franchise”. So much so, the NOLA S&WB is arguably equally at fault for the post-Katrina flooding in the first place but somehow the Army Core of Engineers took the big hit for this. This is also in part because the ACoE is Federal, and thus the Bush administration could somehow be blamed though this is a 60-year-old problem. And a New Orleans corruption problem. But I’ll never complain about kicking the Feds in the junk.

So what does all of this branding do? It creates a market.
Now instead of stealing stuff out of the cemeteries, everyone is stealing water meter covers.
It is for this reason that the new water meter access cover placed in front of my house is just a plain old disc with “Water” written on it.

Boo. and No Fun.

Being rather advantageous for them from a PR standpoint ultimately means self-destruction.
No good deed goes unpunished.
But we all knew that.

Originally posted Jan2009