Rolls-Royce Logo on Building in Downtown Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Gary Glover.
I had a similar thing happen when I was in Indy last fall. Rolls-Royce – which actually manufactures aircraft engines, not cars, but is definitely an elite global corporate player – has its North American headquarters in Indianapolis. They had recently moved their offices to downtown and installed their logo on the building, a low rise office on the southern edge of downtown. Driving into downtown Indianapolis and seeing a giant Rolls-Royce logo, whatever wrong impressions about product it might generate in the public mind, is still a pretty powerful statement.
By contrast, the various office buildings ringing Indianapolis along its I-465 beltway sport a largely unimpressive collection of signs for various local and regional brands: law firms, mortgage companies, that sort of thing. There’s very little to make much of an impression on a visitor that this town is a major center of much of anything.
Lots of things that we take in as we look at cities help define for us what the place is all about and where it stands in the pecking order. Though they may give very false impressions about a place, for good or ill, the brand prominence of corporate logos displayed on major office buildings would appear to be one of those things that shapes our opinions of what a city is really like.