How much does a 21st century city, like San Diego, need a catchy slogan?

A sociologist argues San Diego needs a new slogan for the 21st century:

“San Diego: First City of the 21st Century.”…

Industrial sociologist Walshok, whose book on San Diego as a center of innovation in science, technology and other sectors is due out next year from Stanford University, said this area has a public relations problem — no catchy “narrative” that sells.

“L.A. has the movies, San Francisco has the Gold Rush,” she said. “But I think our capacity to innovate and reinvent is our DNA. That’s what the community has been able to do in the 21st century. It isn’t a process that just happens in the lab. It’s in the ecology of the people, the neighborhoods, the diverse talent … ”

Walshok’s moniker recalls former Mayor Susan Golding’s formulation of a slogan coined in the 1990s, “San Diego: The First Great City of the 21st Century.”

While I get the idea behind the slogan, I’m not sure it really captures the idea of innovation and reinvention.

Looking beyond San Diego, is a slogan necessary for a 21st century city? Does it really encourage business growth from outsiders who see and like the slogan or is it more about people in a community developing a unifying theme that helps bring them together? I suspect it is more of the second. Slogans could help a city establish its own character and this is not unimportant. It might indicate that the local business community has banded together for booster purposes. It could reflect history and aspirations while also highlighting a strength that sets the city apart from other cities. Of course, slogans can be used for marketing purposes but it takes some time and sustained pressure for the concepts to sink in.

Here is a quick summary of a 2005 survey about city nicknames:

In 2005 the consultancy Tagline Guru conducted a small survey of professionals in the fields of branding, marketing, and advertising aimed at identifying the “best” U.S. city slogans and nicknames. Participants were asked to evaluate about 800 nicknames and 400 slogans, considering several criteria in their assessments. The assigned criteria were: whether the nickname or slogan expresses the “brand character, affinity, style, and personality” of the city, whether it “tells a story in a clever, fun, and memorable way,” uniqueness and originality, and whether it “inspires you to visit there, live there, or learn more.”

The top-ranked nickname in the survey was New York City’s “The Big Apple,” followed by “Sin City” (Las Vegas), “The Big Easy” (New Orleans), “Motor City” (Detroit), and “The Windy City” (Chicago). In addition to the number-two nickname, Las Vegas had the top-rated slogan: “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” The second- through fifth-place slogans were “So Very Virginia” (Charlottesville, Virginia), “Always Turned On” (Atlantic City, New Jersey), “Cleveland Rocks!” (Cleveland, Ohio), and “The Sweetest Place on Earth” (Hershey, Pennsylvania).

Outside of Las Vegas, aren’t the more informal nicknames on this list a lot more prominent than the official slogans?

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