PORTLAND – When Portland launched a branding campaign recently to craft a slogan that would put the city “on the map,” as Mayor Michael Brennan put it, soliciting public input was not part of the effort.
So after Brennan let it slip last week that the announcement of a new slogan was coming soon, the Press Herald decided to ask readers for their best ideas.
The more than 100 responses that have come in since Tuesday might explain why the city decided not to involve the public:
Many ideas were sarcastic bites at the city’s liberal reputation or the high number of panhandlers on the street.
Among those who took things seriously, the most common approach was to highlight the city’s geography — an obvious, if trite, source of inspiration.
In some cases, that meant reminding people of Portland’s proximity to water: “The Port You Will Fall in Love With,” or “The Atlantic’s Best Kept Secret.” In others, it meant distinguishing the city from Portland, Ore.: “The Right Portland,” or “The Other Portland,” or “Portland: The Original.”
Many other reader ideas played off the cliche big-city-with-small-town-feel sentiment, such as “Small City, Big Heart,” “Portland: Just City Enough,” and “The best little big city in America.”
City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said she couldn’t speak to why public input was not solicited, but said a number of talented people were consulted during the process, including members of the business and arts communities.
Elizabeth Sutherland, who co-owns a Bangor-based marketing firm, said, in general, it’s never a bad idea to solicit input.
“Great ideas can come from anywhere,” she said. “But it would be bad to put it out to a public vote or create a contest, which are full of pitfalls.”
Many cities and states have adopted slogans with varying degrees of success. Marketing and branding experts say a good slogan can build on and highlight a city’s strengths, but a bad slogan can become a never-ending punchline.
“We really have to thread the needle,” Clegg said.
Portland is widely viewed as the cultural and commerce center of Maine, but has not had a true slogan. The phrase “Strengthening a remarkable city, building a community for life” is used on the city’s website and on its letterhead, but it is at least 10 years old. The city’s unofficial motto, “Resurgam,” which appears on the city’s flag, is even older and translates to “I will rise again.”
Sutherland said a slogan should be just one component of a more in-depth branding process. She has been involved in a number of campaigns, including a current effort to rebrand the Greater Bangor region.
“It’s really important for people to remember that your tagline or slogan needs to reflect what others are looking for rather than what you want people to know,” she said. “When in doubt, keep it simple.”
Although Portland has settled on its top choice, Clegg said there is no firm date for public release of the slogan because lawyers are still vetting the language. The idea of lawyers getting involved might seem strange, but Clegg said the city has to be careful not to infringe on any similar brand or logo that might be out there.
“We like that the community is excited and we are hopeful that it lives up to expectations,” she said. “But we also know that it can’t be everything to everyone.”
Since the Press Herald cannot yet confirm the city’s choice, we’ll leave you with a few more suggestions from our readers:
“A bit further, a lot more.”
“It’s All Right Here.”
“The taste of New England.”
“Portland – Our Secret is Getting Out.”
Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: