Reno in Pop Culture

Branding is an intricate process. Branders can define the identity they want to portray and position it through strategic messaging. This effort makes up 25% of the brand; it paves the road. The remaining 75% comes from the public’s reaction. This constitutes the cars that drive on the road and the shops that align it. When pop culture references a brand, public reaction moves fast. The road can become a freeway.

The American rapper 50-Cent mentioned the liquor “Bacardi” in the beginning of his 2003 Billboard chart-topping song In the Club. The road pavers of Bacardi’s brand have always presented the product as the “party starter”. Their ads typically feature revelers in celebration. This lyrical mention solidified Bacardi’s brand as a party drink. Further, the mention indicates that celebrities, like 50 Cent, prefer Bacardi as their spirit of choice. Inferences like these have an enormous impact on a brand’s equity.

Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Album CoverFor Reno, Johnny Cash’s famous Folsom Prison Blues song does the same thing. “That line still gets the biggest rise out of my audiences — ‘I shot a man in Reno just watch him die,” Johnny Cash once remarked. I often wonder…why did Cash say Reno? Is it the idea of shooting a man just to watch him die the intriguing part or does Reno make the lyric original enough that the entire composition strikes emotion? Audiences would hold their breath in anticipation and follow with an eruption of jubilee when Cash sang it. The popularity of this lyric affected Reno’s brand.

In 1961, The Misfits was filmed in Reno. The movie features Marilyn Monroe, following her divorce in the Washoe County Courthouse, walking to the Virginia Street Bridge and contemplates tossing her wedding ring in the Truckee River. This perhaps enthused the legend about throwing wedding rings off the bridge.

There are hundreds of mentions of Reno in pop culture. Some are more popular than others and some are more complimentary than others. While the use of these mentions are out Reno’s control, their impact is important to consider when Defining Reno. If desired, a city can project who it wants to be. It can fill in the brand potholes or pave a new road. The public perception then has another opportunity to react.

NOTE: The thoughts and opinions expressed by Paul Klein in this blog are personal and not that of the City of Reno.


4 thoughts on “Reno in Pop Culture

  1. Great topic, Paul–the ring toss stories actually started back in the 1920s, and it’s notable that Monroe’s character decides not to toss her ring into the river (she does think about it), but puts it back in her purse instead (maybe to sell it later!). Reno had the national stage since the early 1900s & it’s fun to look at some of those 100-year-old perceptions and see the similarities with these more recent references. The city’s changing image definitely has had a huge impact on the city and how it developed.

  2. What about Reno 911? Everytime I said i was from Reno, many people will think “Reno 911”. I had to explain to them that that show (although it did show some shots of Reno) it wasn’t filmed in Reno. People used to ask me: “Do things like that really happen in Reno?”
    I used to say:”Nope…only in AMerica” 🙂

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