Sunday, July 28, 2013

Some Thoughts on City Slogans

A story on the front page of Saturday's local paper posed the question: Does Prince Albert need a new slogan?  This had been initiated by the thoughts of one of my fellow councillors, who suggested that a new brand, or slogan for the city is needed, preferably one that doesn't include the phrase Gateway to the North, since that might suggest that this is a place for passing through, not staying.

The previous council changed the city slogan just a couple of years ago, from Gateway to the North to Beautiful Gateway City, and a new sign (costing thousands of dollars) with that slogan was put up by the Tourism Centre at the south end of town.

I didn't agree with that change, partly because beautiful is a subjective term,so that what I consider beautiful and what you consider beautiful are probably different.  And really, a city that is beautiful shouldn't have to make a point of telling people that.  I also didn't agree because spending time talking about a slogan is making the mistake of putting image before substance - having a catchy slogan has nothing to do with good governance.  Sometimes with the previous council, it seemed that every year a new slogan was floated, and sank quickly without leaving a trace - remember Proud to be PA?  How about You Can't Spell Paradise Without PA?  PA - Positive Attitude?  I would hate to see council spending any more time or money on efforts to dream up a new slogan, with the idea that an attempt to rebrand our city will attract more people here.

And really, slogans are meant for advertising campaigns - in fact, one definition of slogan is that it is a brief attention-getting phrase used in advertising and promotion.  Think Disneyland (The Happiest Place on Earth) or Nike (Just Do It) or WalMart (Save money. Live better.) or Survivor (Outwit. Outlast. Outplay.)  All memorable, I'll agree.  And all created by professionals who sell things for a living, not by a bunch of city politicians, or through community involvement.

Most people asked by the local paper thought that the previous slogan, Gateway to the North, worked just fine - short, descriptive, and to the point.  Changing it to something that conveys the idea that Prince Albert is a destination isn't going to make that happen.  In my travels, I can't think of a single place that I go to because of the town's slogan - it's because there are things there that I want to do.  I don't know what Stratford's slogan is, but I do know that there's a Shakespearean Festival there,  I don't know what Toronto or Vancouver use for a slogan, but I do know that going to either of those two cities will give me lots to do.

City council can't make the city into what we hope it could be just by talking.  Our role is to put the guidelines in place to allow things to happen - bylaws, zones, taxation policies - and hope that these guidelines enable and encourage growth, not restrict it.  Our responsibilities of maintaining infrastructure and ensuring public safety are also key to making the city an attractive place to live.  That's where we need to focus our energies, recognizing that there are no quick fixes, and that most of our problems aren't solved just by throwing tax payers' dollars in a general direction.

Changing our slogan - not even close to the top of the priority list, in my opinion.

"There is a tendency to try to dumb everything down and turn everything into a one-paragraph press release or even less, just a slogan." - Malcolm Turnbull

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