Last May, as I was walking to my car following the mayor’s press conference announcing the formation of the Airport Task Force, Co-Chair David Fowler came up to me and asked me out of the blue, “Do you think Kansas City has a brand problem?” I thought about it for about a 10th of a second and replied, “Yes. As long as I can remember.”

Kansas City’s “cowtown” inferiority complex is as legendary as its barbeque. We are constantly acting like the neglected middle-child whose big brother gets everything first and whose little sister is spoiled. We’re obsessed with trying to be something that we’re not, mistakenly thinking that it’s better, instead of celebrating what we are.

“Brand” is essentially an experience. The experience of owning a Ford vs a Chevy or eating at Gates vs Jack Stack. The role of brand in business is to differentiate from competitors. A good brand identifies one or more competitive advantages and exploits them to grow the business. Note, that the competitive advantages exist already or are developed internally BEFORE the brand goes to market. Brand is built from the bottom up and from the inside out. Brand is not something that starts with a logo or a slogan. One could hand the KCMO Public Schools and snappy new logo and slogan that says, “Educating Responsible Leaders for Tomorrow” but I don’t think the schools would suddenly become accredited nor would lines form to enroll.

This past week, a new Kansas City logo was unveiled. It was revealed as the new “brand” for KC. But again, KC’s brand is not a logo. Our brand is the unique experience that is Kansas City. The new logo of course does nothing to convey that in part because I don’t think anyone has made the effort to define and celebrate KC’s competitive advantages.

Of course, one of them is the remarkable speed and ease of KCI that comes from its unique design. As discussed before, it’s a legitimate and powerful competitive advantage. Not only must the Mayor’s Airport Task Force protect this KC brand asset, those charged with promoting the city need to sell it.

And regardless of your opinion of the new logo, it does make an interesting airport terminal.