Town Slogans Offer Insights Into Their History

Cultural reprobate and filmmaker John Waters ("Hairspray," "Cry-Baby") said that a motto is a success if he can't think of a nasty twist on it.

Which means his hometown's new slogan "Baltimore: Birthplace of The Star-Spangled Banner" may be a winner. It's straightforward, not to mention patriotic, which means he can't mess with it.

(Not that he wouldn't try. This is the guy who turned inappropriateness into a competitive sport.)

Baltimore unveiled their new Waters-proof slogan on June 30, just five days before Independence Day, when America's theme song will ring out throughout the country. And now Baltimore wants to rub our noses in their contribution to history.

Their announcement got me to thinking about other slogans and how cities and towns want to capitalize on what they're known for.

Back in 2002, Massachusetts spent $300,000 on a new tourism slogan, "Massachusetts . . . Make it Yours," ellipse and all. Not to be outdone, Rochester, New York spent $400,000 for an ad agency to give them "Rochester. Made for living."

Once the economy tanked in 2008, governments were forced to slightly reduce their needless spending. Only slightly though.

A few weeks ago, Tennessee spent $46,000 on a new logo, which looked like it was created with Microsoft Word and orange construction paper — the letters "TN" centered on an orange square sitting atop a blue bar.

And last year, Indiana spent $100,000 on the tourism slogan, "Honest-to-Goodness Indiana." That works out to either $50,000 or $25,000 per word, depending on whether you count "Honest-to-Goodness" as three or one word.

A lot of people thought it was terribly corny, which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense for us. Still, I happen to like the folksy slogan, especially since they turned down my suggestion, "Indiana: America's Canada."

Clearly, I'm in the wrong business. Apparently, all it takes to be a successful tourism slogan writer is a lackluster vocabulary and complete shamelessness in accepting crazy amounts of money for near-zero amounts of work.

Yahoo Travel recently published a list of their "50 favorite" town slogans, and like the mom who won't say which kid's artwork she likes better, they picked one slogan per state. And not even the funny ones. Here were a few of my favorites.

Dumas, Arkansas — whose slogan should be "It's DOO-mis!" — is the "Home of the Ding Dong Daddy," laying claim to being the namesake of the song "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas." Of course, they're in a slapfight with their Texas namesake over who's the real McCoy. Now, now, you're both Dumases.

Berrien Springs, Michigan hails itself as the "Christmas Pickle Capital of the World." A Christmas Pickle is a Christmas tree ornament used in the holiday game of "hide the pickle," a game I can't describe without giggling like a 12-year-old.

Ditto for Hooker, Oklahoma and their "It's a location, not a vocation."

Willow Creek, California calls itself the "Bigfoot Capital of the World," despite a complete lack of sightings of the great North American ape. Personally, I think it's a complete load of BS, which is something Beaver, Oklahoma knows a lot about. They're the "Cow Chip Capital of the World." Hey, someone's got to be, so say it loud, say it proud.

When auto racers in the early 1900s looked for a flat place to drive fast, they headed to Ormond Beach, Florida, giving it the title, "Birthplace of Speed." (This is completely different from Tulsa, Oklahoma being "America's Meth Capital.")

My favorite slogan is Gas, Kansas, which urges us, "Don't pass Gas; stop and enjoy it." Except my wife yells at me whenever I try to visit.

Sometimes it's things that didn't happen in a town that grants it its claim to fame. Gettysburg, South Dakota proudly proclaims itself to be "Where the battle wasn't." In other places, you just need to set your expectations a little lower. Nevada, Iowa recognizes that they're the "26th best small town in America."

A little closer to home, Elkhart, Indiana calls itself the "Band Instrument Capital of the World," which means it sits alone at lunch, thinks it's better than the theatre cities, and Mayor Dick Moore usually starts his speeches with "This one time, at band camp. . ."

Meanwhile, I apparently have a lot in common with Boswell, Indiana in Benton County — we both believe we're the "Hub of the Universe." Except they painted it on a water tower, but I can't even get it on a lousy t-shirt.

You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on

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