By Jason Massad
jasonmassad@reporternewspapers.net

At top is the original version of Dunwoody’s new city slogan, which was unveiled Oct 23. It was soon amended to the version below it — after the city found out that Plano, Texas, had a claim on the original. The sloganeering has been a topic of conversation on local blogs.

Dunwoody’s new tag line — “Smart People – Smart Place” — had the curtain pulled on it almost as quickly as it was unveiled.

Turns out the economic development arm of Plano, Tex., uses the same catchphrase and alerted Dunwoody officials days after the city unveiled its new logo Oct. 23 at the Dunwoody Music Festival.

So, Dunwoody is keeping the “Smart people” but it’s no longer a “Smart place.” It will be a “Smart city.”

“The right thing was to change the logo so that it wasn’t identical,” Dunwoody City Manager Warren Hutmacher said.

The new logo says “Dunwoody” in blue accented by a lime-green asterisk. Beneath “Dunwoody” appear the words “Smart people – Smart City.”

A small, but intense group of Dunwoody bloggers published criticisms of the original design. Bloggers and those who posted on their websites felt the logo was simultaneously corporate, staid and generic — as well as professional and clean.

Heneghan’s Dunwoody Blog – created and updated by Dunwoody City Councilman John Heneghan – drew dozens of comments on the topic.

Posters quickly picked up on the fact that the logo is reminiscent of Walmart’s logo, which has a yellow star in the right corner and a tagline that says “Save money. Live better.”

“Have we been pranked? Did we really just spend money just to adopt a Wal-Mart logo as our brand?” commented one poster on the blog, identified by the handle “famousdunwoody.”

“Bob,” meanwhile, thought that it wasn’t that big a deal. “Don’t worry about it everybody, these logos and themes come and go,” he wrote. “Everyone thinks they will come up with the ‘I Love NY.’ (Fortunately) they fade into the background.”

Others who posted comments on the blogs supported the new logo specifically because it was clean, corporate and efficient looking.

“Sarah Rogue,” commented on Heneghan’s blog “I think it’s a great logo. It fits us. Most everybody in Dunwoody (is) Republican and us being Republicans we are smart,” she wrote.

“What’s wrong with using the Wal-Mart logo? Most of us being Republicans, (we) work for corporations and respect corporate ethics, so why not borrow from the largest most successful corporation?

I really think this is a good thing for Dunwoody and you people are looking at it wrong.”

And Dunwoody city representatives stand behind the concept of the logo, even with the change.

“We have read some of the comments,” said Edie Damann, spokeswoman for the city. “Our decision was to develop a logo that was more corporate-looking, that would be attractive to bringing businesses and economic development to Dunwoody.”

The city, along with its Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce pitched in a combined $105,000 to hire Sky Design, an Atlanta-based marketing firm, to create three logos to give a unified look and feel to the logo for all three entities.

Todd Vaught, the principal of Sky Design, said the firm earned its paycheck. “Hour and hours” of focus groups and meetings created the tagline “Smart people – Smart place”.

After the tagline was created, a trademark search was conducted. No one held a legal trademark on the tagline, he said. The firm did find a report from the economic development arm of Plano, Texas, dated several years ago, that did employ the tagline, Vaught said.

A search of “Smart People Smart Place” using the website search engine Google brings up a report from the Plano Economic Development Board on the first page.

“It’s unfortunate that they didn’t trademark this … and this slipped past us,” Vaught said.

The Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce created about $4,000 worth of merchandise that’s now out of date. Debbie Fuse, deputy director of the Chamber, said it paid about $8,000 for various marketing items to support the Dunwoody brand. Less than half of the merchandise, including stickers and other material, contained the now-defunct tagline. The out-of-date merchandise will continue to be sold, she said.

“The tagline is only on a portion of the merchandise affected by the change.”

Meanwhile, negative comments about the logo span four blogs that cover goings-on in the city.

The blog dunwoodyusa.blogspot.com said an “unscientific poll” showed the pulse of the community isn’t in favor of the logo.

“More than 85 percent of those that weighed in said they either disliked the new brand or hated it!” according to the posting. “Interesting to note, Plano, Texas, uses the same slogan. If we’re lucky a restraining order will force Dunwoody to make a change.”

The city officially unveiled the new logo Oct. 23, at the close of the first night of the Dunwoody Music Festival. Mayor Ken Wright, with his two children on the festival’s main stage, hosted the event, which was accompanied by a professional-looking video that included highlights of the city, and was punctuated with fireworks.

The logo is the first step in a city branding effort to create a recognizable stamp for the city’s residents, business owners and tourists from Atlanta and beyond, according to city officials.

Officials from Dunwoody and the Perimeter Center Community Improvement Districts plan to use the logo on signs that identify the city, including ones that let people know they are in Dunwoody; on signs that direct people through the Perimeter Center area; and on street signs. .

The city, incorporated in late 2008, also will redesign its website with the idea of making it more user-friendly in coordination with the city’s visitors’ bureau and the chamber of commerce.

Some people who posted on Dunwoody blogs weren’t convinced that would help outsiders identify the city.

“Let’s get this straight,” wrote Ken Thompson. “Dunwoody is so confident it can project its image that the name has to come with an asterisk? What is this, a disclaimer? ‘Welcome to Dunwoody*’ … ‘Better read the fine print.”

Dunwoody City Councilman Robert Wittenstein, for his part, said he would not encourage a change in the style of the logo. He acknowledged that he read local blogs, but said he did so mainly for entertainment purposes.

“The logo may be similar to Walmart’s but not more so than the fonts that people are using today,” he said. “I realize that there are people who don’t like it but individual tastes are different.”