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Beachcombing

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 15
7/25/2014


By Jay Beeler

Something stinks at Long Beach State. Attempts to change the university’s image-- by the athletic department and an anonymous donor of $100,000 before the new president was on board -- do not pass the smell test.

Athletic Director Vic Cegles wants to use “Beach” instead of “49ers” in promoting his sports teams. That’s fine, but he has no business messing with the university’s overall image without input from the students, faculty, administration and alumni. That’s a huge audience of several hundred thousand who have come and gone during the school’s 65 years of existence. Not all of them are sports fans.

Also on the chopping block is Prospector Pete, the school’s mascot. Who in their right mind would like to see a beach ball for a mascot? Too bad there weren’t many Indians around 1949 or the teams could be called “Redskins.” What was good enough for my high school in Waynesboro, Penna. – an Indian – is fine with me. (Our logo had a striking resemblance to the Atlanta Braves’.)

There’s a good reason they are called the 49ers and I see no reason to change that. It is ingrained within the history and culture of “Long Beach State University,” another change that’s being proposed from the much more cumbersome “California State University Long Beach.” LBSU makes much more sense than CSULB, since shorter is better when it comes to branding and naming any organization.

Take it from someone who has been involved in numerous branding and naming projects over the past 36 years. Any attempts to tinker with names, logos and slogans require research, surveys, focus groups and extensive groundwork before plowing ahead.
A good example of doing something poorly was the City of Long Beach holding a logo contest in the early 2000s. The problem with logo contests is that the organization is forced to name a winner. They choose a logo that looked like poker chips and sperm whales and proceeded to plaster it on police vehicles and waste containers.

That logo sucked and I told them so in this column. This was a job best left to professionals and the only acceptable logo at that time was a buoy used by the LB Visitors and Convention Bureau. Soon the city’s old seal was cleaned up and used extensively. A wise move that saw poker chips and sperm whales float off in the sunset.

Many years ago I was on the board of the Arthritis National Research Foundation, based in Long Beach, when the Arthritis Foundation, based in Atlanta, wanted us to change our name back to an alternate “Rheumatic Diseases Research Foundation” to avoid confusion.

“No way,” was my response, since we had our name first. Few people would know what a rheumatic disease is versus arthritis, which just happens to be first alphabetically. Not changing the name meant we received hundreds of thousands in donations from throughout the country. Changing the name would have been a death knell for the organization.

The Beachcomber had its own branding challenge in the early days. When I purchased the newspaper it was called Los Altos Neighbor and a circulation of 12,000. When I tripled the circulation to include areas to the north and south, a new name was needed to reflect a much wider distribution.

One evening as I was drifting off to sleep the name “Beachcomber” surfaced. I sprang from the bed and did an internet search, finding the name being used by bars, hairdressers and a few newspapers on the east coast. In short order we filed our fictitious business statement, created the banner and phased in our new name.

The only negative feedback came from a Press-Telegram columnist, who said “Beachcomber” was used to title another reporter’s observations. That column no longer existed, so the new name was locked in stone.

What do you think about the university changing its image? Go to our website, www.longbeachcomber.com, and vote from these choices: (1) Keep “49ers,” (2) Change to “The Beach,” (3) Use both, and (4) No opinion. Email your comments to letters@longbeachcomber.com.

Our online poll has been asking readers what they think we should do about the illegal immigration problem and the majority of responses have been to “return them to their country of origin.”
We have not been promoting our online poll since a certain law enforcement association has been encouraging its members to bias the results through one-sided voting. Until we can keep “ballot stuffing” to a minimum, we will not promote or share results that we know are not valid.

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