Brands and Slogans
Slogans can be the message that cements your brand in the minds of locals and visitors, or a colossal waste of money that leaves people scratching their heads. With competition for new industry and tourism at an all time high, cities and towns across America are attempting to brand themselves with a catchy slogan, hoping to lure new visitors and new money. But how do you sift through the piles of redundant and overused catchphrases to find a slogan that truly represents your community’s brand? Does it set you apart from everyone else? And how important is a good slogan, anyway?
Bad slogans are easy to find, and they can cost you. In 2006 Baltimore paid $500,000 to come up with “Get In On It.” Get in on what? one might wonder. And what does “it” have to do with Baltimore? Seattle spent 16 months and $200,000 and the end result was “Metronatural.”Really? Sweden spent $250,000 to come up with“Visit Sweden.”This says nothing about the country, nor does it give us any reason to visit.
Big cities aren’t the only ones trying to jump on the branding bandwagon with questionable slogans. A myriad of rib ticklers can be found in small town America. Keister, MN obviously has a sense of humor – they dub themselves “The Hind End of Minnesota.” Marlin, Texas goes with the honest approach, “Spend your money in Marlin, darlin’.” San Andreas, California tries for some humorous irony, using the slogan, “It’s not our fault.” And one of our personal favorites is from Hooker, Oklahoma – “It’s a location, not a vocation.”
But what do these slogans really say about the communities they are intended to represent? And are they doing their job, drawing visitors, businesses and new residents to the area?
The problem is, when a community decides to come up with a brand, they often focus most of their attention, and money, on the logo and slogan. But a slogan is not a brand. Neither is a logo. Let me repeat that – logos and slogans are not brands. They are merely the marketing messages used to communicate and support your brand. A real brand is not to be found in a round table focus group, or at the desk of a graphic designer. A community’s brand is what comes to mind when people think of the community or business. This might be planned, carefully orchestrated to lure visitors and give the community a sense of place and identity. Often a brand is “earned” by reputation, sometimes a negative one. Many times communities require a “rebranding” or “repositioning” program to change the perceptions people have of them.
A brand is built on product – on the experience people expect to have when they arrive. If your community lacks the product to support their intended brand, the brand will fail, even with the wittiest slogan in the world. Your community must “deliver on the promise,” to actually be what you claim to be. This is what your community should focus on when building their brand – building the product necessary to deliver on that promise. Product sells itself. Then you can work on the marketing messages necessary to communicate the brand to the world.
Once you’re ready to move forward with a new brand, when the product development is underway and you can deliver on the promise the brand represents, THEN it’s time to come up with a good slogan. There are a few key things to remember when developing a tag line:
1. Jettison the generic. If it rings true for just about any community, anywhere, it’s too generic. Anyone can be “Unique by nature,”“The four season destination,”or“Fun for the whole family.”You need to focus on what is unique about your community, what makes you stand apart from the crowd. Promote activities, not just places.
2. Say no to focus groups. You NEVER build a brand using focus groups. Focus groups inevitably come up with slogans that are too generic, attempting to please everybody. Feel good slogans designed to make people in the community feel warm and fuzzy won’t do anything to promote your destination to outsiders.
3. Build your brand on feasibility, not just local sentiment. You cannot be all things to all people and win in this age of specialization. Focus on that one thing that puts you on the map and sets you apart from everyone else.
4. Differentiation. With thousands of communities vying for the same set of visitors, you must be original, offering something visitors can’t get closer to home.
Building a brand is not a shallow exercise – it’s an involved process, one that requires much more work than simply designing a logo and catchy slogan. But a good slogan is a useful tool in your community’s marketing arsenal, helping to cement the brand in the minds of locals and visitors and conveying what your community is all about. When your slogan is supported by a winning product that delivers on the brand promise, you have the foundation for a successful brand.