Wal-Mart and Target are the opposite of weird. That's the point of view of a PR campaign in Louisville, Ky., where a black-and-white billboard rotating around the city urges residents to "Keep Louisville weird." The idea is to fight the homogenized look of towns and cities across the U.S. where the proliferation of chain stores has ruined many a small business.
"We want consumers to be a little more conscientious. We want them to think before they open their wallets about what they can contribute to the local economy," says Leslie Stewart, program coordinator for "Keep Louisville weird."
Stewart took the idea from Austin, Texas, and began putting billboards up. A Web site, KeepLouisvilleWeird.com, was launched this past November. Last month, Stewart and about 100 local business ranging from restaurants to funeral homes met to start a Louisville chapter of The American Independent Business Alliance. "It's a movement that's gathering steam, but not everyone is using the word 'weird,' " notes Stewart.
Other cities, including Boulder, Colo., and Raleigh, N.C., are doing similar things. Raleigh uses the line "Raleigh unchained." "I heard Topeka dropped 'Keep Topeka freaky,' " says Stewart. "I can't imagine much that's freaky about Topeka."