When I first read the headlines I was shocked. I had to double check that I wasn’t reading something written for The Onion. But no, the news was not part of some satirical joke, it was real: for the entire month of March, Topeka had changed its name to Google, KS.
This was done as a marketing ploy to attract the attention of one of the biggest companies in the world. Apparently, Google is trying to find a city to test out its new fiber-optic network that could revolutionize Internet use as we know it.
Topeka (we’ll call it by its proper name to avoid confusion) is the perfect size for this experiment, so they thought changing their name would give them a leg-up in the competition to be selected.
The technology is nothing new: the city-wide optics have been in full swing throughout Asia for years. What is newsworthy, however, is the idea of changing a whole city’s name to appease a corporation.
The change was only for the month of March and our capitol has gone back to its real name. Topeka hopes this act will prove they are the perfect town for Google to test their latest billion dollar idea.
What this act proves to me is that cities are willing to do just about anything, no matter how debasing or embarrassing, to gain the attention (and thus money) of any company willing to give them the time of day.
I have no problem with their intentions. I think the technology sounds amazing, and I would be proud to have my state capitol be one of the first cities in the country to adopt the program.
My problem lies in how they are going about being selected. I am sure there are more professional, respectable ways to go about competing for the prize. I feel this act reeks of desperation. Like the kid in middle school who would eat paste just to get noticed, I feel like Topeka will do anything to get its name in the paper.
Don’t believe me? Few of us are old enough to remember, but during the anime craze of the late ‘90s, Topeka changed its name again, this time for only one day, to cash in on the popularity of Pokemon. What did it change its name to, you might ask? ToPikachu. I rest my case.
Midwestern cities have to be on the defense anyway. America tends to think less of the Midwest; we get dismissed as being backwards, slow, old fashioned, unhip, etc. Just read any of the national news articles that were written about the name change. I challenge you to find one that doesn’t make at least one “Wizard of Oz” joke.
This issue goes beyond the simple “not in my backyard” argument. (By that I mean disliking it simply because it’s in my state) I would feel the same way regardless of where it happened.
As a concerned citizen, it worries me to see a city so willing to bend over backwards to satisfy a large, multinational company. It announces to the world that cities have price tags.
We were lucky it was Google this time, a company with a reasonably solid reputation. What if Viagra asks to rent out our city’s name next month? Or Hustler? Or wealthy individuals? Would you want your state capitol to be renamed Miley Cyrus, Kansas? (Though she’d probably buy land in Montana, for obvious reasons).
I don’t blame the city for what it’s doing. I know times are tough and cities have to do what they can to stay afloat. But we have to have some morals don’t we?
What I draw from this whole experience is that cities are becoming so desperate they are willing to forsake their own namesake to please the highest bidder.