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How the Boring Area Code Became a Hot Branding Commodity

It’s not just a 3-digit number but a kind of secret handshake that locals — and consumers in-the-know — can recognize

“Screenshots last forever @NewEraCap,” tweeted @EricHarrisUA on May 25, 2021. Headwear giant New Era removed its “Local Market” line of baseball caps after being subjected to vigorous mockery on social media.

The use of area codes in a commercial context as symbols of a city or region is a trend that seems to be picking up steam, as seen in trademarks for companies and products such as “Area 313,” “Vapin’ the 619,” and “Yo ♥ 305.”

The area code shares characteristics with other alternate ways of identifying cities: it is like the abbreviation in its brevity and like the nickname in its informality. A look at how various terms for New York City have been used in trademarks shows that the “New York” name, the “NYC” abbreviation, and the “212” area code are all on the rise, while the “Big Apple” nickname is falling out of favor.