Matt Driscoll

An airport by any other name is an airport. Tacoma will survive Sea-Tac rebrand

Hot take alert!

I don’t care. I just don’t. Not in the slightest, and you really shouldn’t, either.

That’s my big, gritty Tacoma opinion on the “branding” kerfuffle that embroiled that airport roughly halfway between here and Seattle this week.

Whatever we’re calling it now.

As my colleague Debbie Cockrell reported Wednesday, there’s a high-profile rebranding afoot.

After who knows how many meetings with consultants and probably some “innovators” in the “digital corporate branding space,” a campaign has been launched to rebrand Sea-Tac Airport as simply “SEA.”

There’s a slick new website (because of course), and a belief that the name change — and probably more importantly a host of experienced-related improvements — will usher “in a new era of customer-centered travel,” according to the official news release.

Technically, it’s still Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, at least according to the small print.

So what’s the big deal?

There isn’t one. That’s my point.

Oh, if only it were that easy.

Predictably, the mundane reality hasn’t stopped some here in Small Print Town from feeling snubbed or slighted.

As the rebrand planning process was underway — again, whatever that entails — local officials and business booster types expressed fear that Tacoma would get left out. Whether they’ll say it publicly or not, it’s hard to imagine all of them love what the lengthy exercise came up with, and the free T-shirts probably haven’t even arrived in the mail yet.

Once the prominent new “SEA” logo was unveiled? Well, it didn’t take a flight tower to foresee an incoming torrent of righteous indignation from the south.

Now, from your average, long-maligned Tacoman, I get it — at least a little. You can only get kicked so many times before becoming a growling dog, or at least a dog that sometimes gets on Twitter to blow off some steam. We’ve earned it, and then some.

But when it comes to our more official reaction, I say let’s collectively aim for something more dignified and direct.

SEA can have its branding, and those who know no better can ignore the small print and call the airport that from now until eternity.

We don’t need SEA’s validation, and we certainly don’t need to grovel and beg for respect from the Port of Seattle or the city it calls home.

Don’t want “TAC” in the name? Didn’t test well? Think it will confuse travelers?

Fine. Whatever.

Wait until those travelers learn they’re basically in Burien.

OK, OK ... admittedly, I’m walking a fine line here. There’s not caring about an airport’s rebranding, and then there’s not caring so much you write a column about it — which just might be worthy of some self examination (some other time).

Maybe I’m indifferent, like Taylor Swift when she sings a song about being indifferent, which is clearly something else, and probably doesn’t count.

Fair enough.

But still.

But STILL, I say.

How many times, as Tacoma, are we really going to plead for respect?

How many times are we going to bust out our second fiddle act and play furiously for attention?

How many times are we going to do this, when it fits right into the familiar narrative of us doing precisely this — which basically amounts to Tacoma desperately reminding everyone of its perceived place in a make-believe regional hierarchy.

Let’s just stop, for once, and be Tacoma. It’s good enough.

Sure, we’re a work in progress, just like anywhere else. Attracting travelers, talented people and new businesses is and will continue to be important. I’m not suggesting otherwise.

But when it comes to living in Seattle’s shadow?

We only have to see it that way if we choose to, and I say we finally stop.

Thankfully, there is good news to be had, even for those who still feel stung by the injustice of a callous, corporate rebranding.

First, travelers are still going to travel, and Tacoma is still going to be here for them to discover upon arrival. Airport branding matters little, and I’ll gladly take my chances.

If Tacoma’s not for them, so be it.

Even more important?

Let’s remember no one actually likes going to the airport.

So whatever it’s called, we definitely have that going for us.

Matt Driscoll is a reporter and The News Tribune’s metro news columnist. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Driscoll lives in Central Tacoma with his wife and three children. He’s passionate about the City of Destiny and strives to tell stories that might otherwise go untold.
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