Are city slogans obsolete? Cleveland, Ohio, recently announced that it would phase out its famous slogan, “Cleveland Rocks,” in favor of “This Is Cleveland”—which isn’t a slogan at all, its creators insist, but rather “a repository” and “a collection of stories.”
My new column for the Visual Thesaurus, “The Slogans That Never Sleep: How to Brand a City,” reviews the history of city slogans, which traditionally have served to boost tourism and rally civic spirit, and explains the distinctions between city slogans, city mottoes (like London’s Domine dirige nos—“God direct us”), and city nicknames (like New York’s “The City That Never Sleeps” and “The Big Apple”).
Full access is restricted to subscribers (just $19.95 a year!). Here’s an excerpt:
In the past, cities and towns (or the largest employer therein) often sponsored civic slogan contests. In a 1911 contest, Modesto, California, chose an immodest but lyrical city slogan: “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health.” (The prize: $3.) That slogan, now considered unofficial, still adorns a downtown arch. A 1929 contest produced “The Biggest Little City in the World,” the long-lasting slogan of Reno, Nevada. (The winner, one G.A. Burns of Sacramento, received $100.) That slogan, too, appears on a downtown arch.
Real-estate developers tried their hand at sloganeering as well. In 1925 Jacob Ruppert, who owned the New York Yankees from 1915 to 1939, bought a swath of swampy real estate in Florida adjoining the team’s spring-training field. He dubbed the property Ruppert Beach and gave it the long-winded slogan “Where Every Breath Brings Added Health and Every Moment Pleasure.” Unfortunately, in September 1926 a massive hurricane struck the region. Ruppert Beach was never built.
Want more? Here are some blog posts I’ve written about city slogans:
The City • The Committee • And You(on Philadelphia’s 2009 slogan, chosen by committee)
Urban Renewal (on the Twin Cities’ “More to Life” and Las Vegas’s “Your Vegas Is Showing”)
World Capitals (on California cities that call themselves “The __ Capital of the World”)
Tales of the Cities (one of my earliest posts, published in June 2006, about the focus-group death of an Indianapolis city slogan)
And if it’s state tourism slogans that interest you, the New York Times’s Gail Collins devoted a column to them yesterday. Idaho, for example, recently dropped its “Great Potatoes” in favor of “Adventures in Living” after conducting some “attitude research.” Collins observes: “Well yeah, when you hire people to do a marketing survey, they are not going to come back with a root vegetable.” Check the comments for readers’ contributions (example: “New Orleans: We’re Here Because We’re Not All There”).
Did you happen to hear this piece on "This American Life" about a city song?
It's the 8-minute prologue.
Posted by: Karen | May 16, 2014 at 05:44 AM
Karen: Yep. It's in the Visual Thesaurus column!
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | May 16, 2014 at 05:47 AM
I'm getting used to "Native America," the tagline on Oklahoma license plates; at least it's better than "Oklahoma Is OK."
Posted by: CGHill | May 16, 2014 at 06:49 PM
I rather liked the Wisconsin slogan (noted in comments under Gail Collins' column):
Come Smell Our Dairy Air
Posted by: susan | May 18, 2014 at 06:54 AM