City slogans: the bad and the ugly

Branding Wellington

Branding Wellington

We live in branded world, and unless we choose to remove ourselves to a cave on Wellington’s rocky coastline, as one chap has done, it’s hard to avoid absorbing its messages.

These days even local councils have got in on the act, and the brand-free town or city is a rare one. I’ve been thoroughly diverted by the range of regional slogans I’ve come across when writing an entry on city boosters and promoters for Te Ara’s Economy, Business and City Life theme (due to go live in late 2009).

Cooked up by advertising types, these slogans can reveal a lot about a place’s sense of itself, though not always in the way the creators intended.

There are many choice examples to choose from. My favourite from the mixed-messages category is Dunedin’s old slogan ‘It’s all right here’ – fairly presentable when read correctly, but too vulnerable to the alternative interpretation, ‘It’s alright here’.

A close second is Hamilton’s discarded tag ‘More than you’d expect’, which went out of its way to highlight the low expectations the rest of the nation seems have about this city. Hamilton provides a case study on how not to brand a city, but you’ll have to read the entry for more on that.

Some slogans are just plain weird, and you have to wonder what kind of refreshments their creators were enjoying during the brainstorming session. Timaru was inflicted with ‘Touch, taste, feel’ for a couple of years, and this has now been replaced by ‘Feel the heartbeat’. Timaru must be a tactile kind of place.

And how about ‘Stop and taste Te Puke’? This slogan made it into Lonely Planet’s Signspotting 2, and in their ignorance (or perhaps on purpose) the authors of this book mistook the Bay of Plenty town’s name for the colloquial version of vomit. With a slogan like that who can blame them?

It’s a perilous business coming up with a slogan, and I’m surprised more councils haven’t chosen to steer clear of them, as Hamilton recently has. Still, they have provided this researcher with a great deal of entertainment. I’ll leave you with a few more crackers, past and present.

Dannevirke: ‘Take a liking to a Viking’

Mayfield (near Ashburton): ‘Blink and you will miss out’

Matamata: ‘You matter in Matamata’

11 comments have been added so far

  1. Comment made by Whiti || October 23rd, 2008

    Oh no! Is Hamilton no longer the city of the future? Go the ‘tron.

  2. Comment made by Claire || October 23rd, 2008

    its okay Whiti – Rolleston (Canterbury) has been “The Town of the Future” for years… and Ashburton runs the slightly sinister “whatever it takes”

  3. Comment made by Murray || October 24th, 2008

    I’ve always enjoyed the Wairarapa slogan “Right On Balance” … not too interesting but also not too boring, not too hot or too cold, just middle of the road …

  4. Comment made by Ross || October 24th, 2008

    Dunedin’s ‘It’s all right here’ certainly deserves a prize for being totally naff. Has to be one of the worst marketing decisions ever. And what on earth is their current slogan, ‘I am Dunedin’, supposed to mean?
    NZ doesn’t have this on its own, of course: I was always struck by the signs in West Ryde (Sydney) proclaiming it ‘City of Lifestyle Technology’. The mind boggles. Or maybe just turns away.

  5. Comment made by Rusty || October 24th, 2008

    I believe Wanganui has changed theirs now, it used to be ‘It’s well worth the journey’. Whenever I saw it, I always had to add ‘…in the other direction’. Which admittedly, isn’t very clever or funny… but I really hated living there!

  6. Comment made by Alex || October 24th, 2008

    I received a letter the other day from the Grey District Council. Their slogan is “NatuREALLY Amazing!”, which I adore. The faltering, enthusiastic exclamation mark just seems to be trying so hard!

  7. Comment made by The Authoress || October 24th, 2008

    Whiti: ‘Hamiltron – City of the Future’ is an informal slogan devised by the ironic youth of Hamilton, or so I’m told. These days the city (officially) makes do with HamiltON. The council is obviously a kindred spirit with the Grey District Council in this regard.
    Keep the slogans coming people – I’d like to have montage of slogans to accompany the entry so the more the merrier!

  8. Comment made by Hinemoana || April 7th, 2009

    I toured NZ a few years ago doing gigs, and my Trusty Sound Engineer and I had a ball clocking the signs! Thanks for the memories, you fullas… Meantime, I reckon the Kapiti Council could make room for: Paekakariki – stretch a leg, kick a poet in the butt.

  9. Comment made by Kerryn || April 9th, 2009

    Nice one Hinemoana. I think you should submit that suggestion to the council forthwith!

  10. Comment made by Ross || April 21st, 2009

    , NZ’s official Kiwiana Town! “everything from the Kiwi, Buzzy Bee, Paua and Pavlova, to Sir Edmund Hillary, Colin Meads and the All Blacks, from shearing and sheep dog trials to the haka and Hokey Pokey icecream.”

  11. Comment made by thomasgalvin || October 8th, 2010

    Its not so good not so bad.

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