O! say, can you see this Omaha logo everywhere?
BY C. DAVID KOTOK
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
behind the 11th green at the Cox Classic.
Punctuating a recruiting brochure for the University
of Nebraska at Omaha.
Flying off the shelves of Eppley Airfield gift
Bursting over Rosenblatt Stadium at The
World-Herald's annual Independence Day fireworks display.
Pouring from the tap at the Upstream Brewing Co.
The simple letter and punctuation mark succeeds
where other Omaha slogans - remember "Omaha: Rare, Well Done"? - left a
bad taste. Among the less memorable attempts in the 1980s were "Big
City Spice, Small City Nice" and "Aha, Omaha."
"What is it?" asked Jean Brown of Lincoln as she
looked at the 20-by-22-foot red "O!" painted on the grass behind the
green for the Nationwide Tour event in Omaha.
"It's the Big O," responded daughter-in-law Sarah
Brown, also of Lincoln. "I like it. It's very simple. Nebraska needs
something like that."
The O! hasn't yet reached the universal recognition
that sponsors at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and Greater
Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau expect over time.
Chamber President David Brown said he hopes that,
next year, "Omaha" can be spelled out under the O! at the golf
But the objective is to make the O! so familiar
throughout Omaha and the region that it requires no explanation.
"When you see the swoosh, you don't need the word
Nike underneath," said Molly Skold, the chamber's keeper of the O!
Even the questions it raises can work to the city's
advantage. Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett is among
the Omahans now sporting a silk tie covered in discreet O!s.
"I hope I get some questions on it so I can deliver
a message on behalf of Omaha," Buffett wrote to Brown.
Most past slogans were designed for narrow purposes,
with a tourist-oriented approach that didn't work as an economic
development pitch. The search for a unifying theme evolved into the
single logo in the late fall of 2003.
The active O! campaign began last August and now has
its own Internet Web site, www.ososurprising.com.
Omaha definitely needed something that visitors
could pick up, or Omahans could take to out-of-town friends and
relatives, said Linda Huckins, general manager of the Hudson News shops
"It's a very attractive product," Huckins said of
the icon applied to mugs, shot glasses, T-shirts, caps, pens and golf
shirts. "The marketing potential is awesome."
Finding a signature image for Omaha had proven
difficult, Huckins said. At last year's Hudson national meeting
in Las Vegas, vendors showed off their images of the Gateway Arch in
St. Louis, professional sports team logos, beaches and mountains but
nothing that would fit Omaha, she said.
Huckins suggested that the Omaha skyline might work.
But in the end, she went for the O! and soon had to expand the space
devoted to the products.
UNO is making increasing use of the city logo,
including a new brochure titled "O! What a University."
"What differentiates UNO is that it's a metropolitan
university," said Teresa Gleason, UNO director of communications.
The diversity and attractions of Omaha are what make
the campus different from the many small schools throughout the
Midlands, as well as the other University of Nebraska campuses and the
major university campuses in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas, she said.
Not every use is easy.
Fireworks by Grucci had to put its research
and development department to work to create an explosion in the shape
of an exclamation mark to use in its Fourth of July display.
But the biggest burst of O!s is tied to this year's
Cox Classic golf tournament. In addition to the giant insignia that is
serving as a backdrop to the television coverage, the chamber and the
convention and visitors bureau are running 96 commercials in
conjunction with the Golf Channel's worldwide broadcast and
rebroadcasts of the event.
"It helps us brand this event," said Terry Hanna,
the assistant director of the Cox Classic.
And this year's champion will be crowned with an O!