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May 8, 2006

How Not to Develop a State Slogan or Tagline

What is it about state and city slogans? A brief look at this year's slogan debacles gives us a primer in how to actually scare visitors away.

Utah’s new slogan announced in the last few months of “Life Elevated” was for being too close to neighboring Colorado’s slogan of “Enter a Higher State”.

Well, I have to say that an error like that is a form of inadequate brand name research. Meanwhile, Palm Springs, California has ditched the new campaign. Not surprising, it of the slogan “Put your hands up; you're surrounded."

New Jersey has scrapped its second slogan is just a few months. One slogan developed by a New York naming consultant, “We’ll Win You Over”, was rejected by the Governor who ran a resident contest and decided on “Come See For Yourself.” But it turns out the “Come See For Yourself” slogan by West Virginia and other states. Or maybe not. .

I don't think developing a slogan or tagline for a city or state should be this difficult.

While nobody can anticipate a governor's personal preference, as was the case in New Jersey, I think the states and cities could do a better job of using the available and free US trademark database.

This leaves me wondering, since states have built-in name recognition, do they really need a slogan?

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Posted by William Lozito at May 8, 2006 11:56 AM
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It seems these states with the weak tags are trying desperately to use slogans to repair a damaged perception of their states or counter stereotypes. It's going to take more than just a new tagline.


I couldn't agree wth you more.

Two quick thoughts:

First - Washington state's "Say WA" was one of the worst examples I've seen lately - and they don't really have that much trouble locally. Heck, they're about to get the Olympics a few hours to the North, so tourism is going to go up. I'd be very interested in hearing your opinion of the Say WA campaign (I'd been considering tackling this same issue in the near future - but I like your take.)

Second - Do you think it is harder for larger groups of people to create taglines for themselves than smaller groups? Is it easier to tag a neighborhood than it is a country? A few years back I would've said yes... now I'm not so sure.


"Say WA" does nothing to position the state of Washington, in my view. It's a meaningless slogan to anyone considering vacationing in Washington. In fact, it's not worthy of being considered a slogan.

As for large vs small groups, when it comes to the creative process such as name development, slogan development or creating advertising, less is more.

What flavor ice cream do you get when you order for 10 people in a room together? Vanilla of course. The same holds true for a brand name, slogan or ad campaign.

Boston had a competition to come up with a slogan for the city about twenty years ago. The winner was "T and Symphony". Horrible. I don't think it was ever used.

I like your "vanilla" comment.

I agree with you that for large groups you often have to come up with something that few people hate rather than something that everyone likes. So the ease of getting a name or tag is improved by larger groups, but the quality of the resulting name is likely worse.

Conversely, for small groups I find that the quality of the name is typically higher, though coming to a decision is much more difficult. My assumption is that because the name is proportionately owned more by each constituent they feel a higher level of responsibility to have the name represent them well.

This is more art than science of course...

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