I saw a billboard for Speedway gas on Interstate 494 the other day. That’s the brand that replaced SuperAmerica. We all shrugged when it happened: “So long, Supermom hoagies. But gas is gas, and we’ll all muddle through this tumultuous upheaval somehow.”
The company is based in Ohio, but it wanted us to know it gets us. And so it said:
“The Mini-Apple Just Got Mega-Convenient.”
Minneapple? Did they defrost an adman cryogenically frozen in 1981? We tried out that word for a while back in the early ’80s, and it was a bit embarrassing. “We’re just like New York! Except for the subway and the endless blocks of skyscrapers and Broadway and drugs and municipal fiscal collapse. We have bagels! And the Guthrie.”
What we meant to say is that we’re sophisticated in our own modest way, and you can walk in the park without getting your head bashed and your wallet lifted. Also, we have bagels!
We were well aware New York never pitched itself as “a really, really big Minneapolis.”
Not that they could. I remember the first time I went to New York. I had a cup of coffee in Herald Square at the Chock full o’Nuts. Ah, finally — the Gotham experience. Havin’ a cup of Joe at a classic New Yawk institution. The waitress banged it down on the counter, and half the coffee was in the saucer. When I asked for a refill, you would have thought I was Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. The waitress gave me a look: “I thought I was done with you.”
I wanted to say, “Where I come from, they put the pot on the table, and when that’s dry, they bring you another.” But that would have earned hoots: “Oh, where’s this magical land with the bottomless coffee cup, son? Coffeetopia, Nebraska? Folger’s Grove, Oz?”
“No!” I’d scream. “Minneapolis! The Minneapple. You may be the Maxi-Apple, but we know how to treat people.”
But we do need a better nickname. Baltimore is the Charm City, something best said with withering sarcasm. Chicago is the Windy City; it’s a reference to the bloviating politicians, or perhaps chili dogs. Indianapolis is Circle City, which must really get the tourists’ heart pumping. “Oh, boy, we’re gonna see round things!” Cleveland is “OK, it’s Cleveland, sorry.”
We’re the Twin Cities. It’s banal and inaccurate. We’re not twins, obviously. We’re like conjoined nephews. If we were twins, there would be no reason for anyone who visited one to see the other. “Well, shall we head over the river and visit the Other Walker Museum, which has the same paintings except reversed as if seen in a mirror?”
A better nickname would be what everyone else in Minnesota calls us: the Cities. “We’re going down to the Cities this weekend.” It’s definitive: Other places are cities, but we’re the Cities.
No other metropolitan area has claimed this. London’s financial district is called the City, and people on Long Island say they’re going into the city when they take the subway to Manhattan, but no one’s been brave enough to stake a claim to being the Cities.
Hint to Speedway: For your next ad campaign, show your logo next to a crossed-out SuperAmerica logo, with the words, “Well, that’s different.” Then we’ll know you get us.