Branding L-A: What slogan would you choose?

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People feel a lot of “Great” in the Twin Cities.

And “Falls” and “Future” and “Forward” and “Together.” Not to mention the words “Twin” and “Cities” and “L-A,” as you might expect.

Those were among the most commonly used words in the many suggestions made by Sun Journal readers for a new Lewiston-Auburn slogan to replace “It’s Happening Here.”

A subcommittee from the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council has been working on a new slogan project for about a year.

Calvin Rinck, marketing director for the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, said the group hopes to start advertising for a  marketing firm to lead a formal naming process this summer.

But back in February, Sun Journal Executive Editor Rex Rhoades decided to ask readers for their ideas. He asked them to send their slogans and tagline suggestions to the paper and he promised a $20 bill in a gold-colored envelope to the creator of the best one.

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Readers responded, sending in 151 suggestions. Most submitters were from Maine. One was from Michigan. Starting today, we’re asking readers to vote on their favorite. Two weeks from now, we’ll announce the winner. Maybe Rinck’s group will find the input helpful in eventually creating a new slogan for the Twin Cities.

But that’s not the way professional slogan-wranglers usually work, according to California-based writer and consultant Eric Swartz. Professional tagline creators usually try to figure out the message first, then hone it down to the simplest, most basic phrases.

“A tagline expresses an idea,” he said. “A tagline is incidental, almost an empty vessel, if it does not have a good idea running around in it somewhere. It’s just words.”

Swartz, known online as the Tagline Guru, makes his living helping communities, businesses and advertising firms come up with exactly the right phrase to describe what they’re selling.

Swartz said there are differences among a moniker, like Bangor’s appelation as the “Queen City of the East,” a motto like Auburn’s “No Steps Backward” and a slogan or tagline like “It’s Happening Here.” The first two are names or identifiers that could be historical or anecdotal.

But slogans have a purpose — selling the community.

“If there’s a good idea underlining it, something bold, imaginative or even funny, it makes people want to know more or learn more,” Swartz said. “The thinking has to go beyond the city limits when they create their tagline. And they have to think of who they want to attract: Is it tourists or do they just want to build the business base?”

The slogans our readers sent in included the gooey, the puzzling and the personal.

One suggested “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” a pop song that was atop the charts when he graduated from Lewiston High School.

Another suggested the earnest “A Really Nice Place, believe me!” And another put forward the innocently honest “We’ve Got It All — Or Soon Will Have It.” (For the full list of suggestions from readers, go to www.sunjournal.com.)

While Swartz didn’t cast his professional judgment on those two in particular, he said things like community pride and a vision for what the community could be are elements to consider in the making of a successful slogan.

“It has to resonate with the residents,” Swartz said. “It has to resonate with who they feel they are.”

Swartz has helped design winners for other communities and organizations, such as “Real East Texas living” for Longview, Texas and “Our roots are showing” for the Tri-Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau in central California.

“Tri-Valley was a lot like your Twin Cities,” Swartz said. “It was a large area with a lot of constituent interests and everyone wanted the slogan to hit their key attribute. In this case, it had three things that made it unique: a wine-growing region, historic downtowns and an unpretentious, down-to-earth personality. I came up with one slogan that encompassed all three and everyone walked away happy.”

He curates and collects other city slogans on his website, ranging from winners to clunkers. Favorites include Yuma, Ariz.’s punny “Enjoy Our Sense of Yuma” and the one for Eagle Pass, a Texas border town with the colorful slogan “Where Yee-Ha Meets Ole.”

“You have to communicate an experience that can’t be duplicated anywhere else,” he said. “Otherwise, you really do have a cookie-cutter, ‘me too’ kind of slogan.”

That can make a big difference.

“Remember that Cleveland used to be ‘The Mistake by the Lake,'” he said. Then they built the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

“Now, ‘Cleveland Rocks,'” he said.

Other tips: Make the tagline memorable. Show why the area is unique and pleasant and a place people want to visit.

Most of all, be concise.

“If you can’t put it on the back of a business card or make an elevator pitch, people just walk away with just a lot of gobbledygook,” Swartz said. “It doesn’t help if there is nothing succinct, terse or a compelling idea.”

And what a community does with its new slogan is what really matters.

“You’re better off with a mediocre slogan that actually gets marketed and promoted than a great one that gets left on a shelf,” he said. “A slogan is as good as it is communicated on your websites and everywhere else.”

In that respect, Swartz said the Twin Cities’ “It’s Happening Here” campaign was a winner. Local marketing officials on both sides of the Androscoggin used it in television commercials, in print ads and brochures and at trade shows around New England.

“It’s like a commercial; you have to keep hammering on it,” he said. “If it’s good, it’ll catch on.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

The unusual, funny or puzzling from the slogan entries

  • Crystal Blue Persuasion
  • LA – AL Turned Good
  • Legitimate Lewiston Auburn Accompany
  • Legitimate Lewiston Auburn Always
  • L-A: “She’s A Brick-House!”
  • Checking our Review
  • Bridging the G.A.P.S. (Gray Areas People Support) changing the world
  • Exlax: It Has LA In It!
  • Old Cities Never Die, Just Fade Away
  • History Never Dissolves
  • Lewiston…..across from Auburn!
  • FA LA LA = L/A
  • A Variety Show
  • Great Falls A-fire!
  • No Greater Goals
  • All Worlds Overlap
  • L-A: Walking distance to beach!

Maine monikers and mottoes

  • “No Steps Backward” — Auburn
  • “The Queen City of the East” — Bangor
  • “The City of Ships” — Bath
  • “Earmuff Capital of the World” — Farmington
  • “Land of the Porcupine” — Madawaska
  • “The Star City” — Presque Isle
  • “Lobster Capital of the World” — Rockland
  • “A Place to Watch” — Skowhegan
  • “Toothpick Capital of the World” (former slogan) — Strong
  • “The University City of Maine” — Waterville
  • “Our Latchstring Always Out” — Yarmouth

Slogans from other Auburns and Lewistons

The gold standards: Some of the most memorable place slogans in the U.S.

You may forget the town, but not the slogan

What we say about Lewiston-Auburn:

What they say about other towns:

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