If Baltimore City Councilman James B.Kraft has his way, Baltimore will soon have a new slogan. The slogan, “Baltimore – Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner,” plays off the city’s connection to the national anthem. While few would argue that Councilman Kraft’s heart is in the right place, does the slogan really benefit Baltimore from a marketing perspective? After all, a slogan is really there to have an impact on how those think about your brand.
First, the upside. If the slogan is approved, the cost will be significantly less than slogans past. Baltimore taxpayers shelled out a whopping half million for a firm to develop their 2006 slogan “Baltimore – Get In On It.” That left a lot of residents wanting to “Get out of it.” Baltimore’s most recent slogan “Baltimore: A Great Place To Grow” was better received but it was also a bit generic and antiquated sounding. There are several cities with really catchy slogans. That left Baltimore’s mainly forgotten. So perhaps a new city slogan will help build some momentum. Finally, it might temporarily put a stop to Baltimore’s many unofficial sarcastic slogans such as “A Great Place…To Get Murdered” or “You’ll come for the crack. You’ll stay for the heroin.”
Unfortunately, the downside might outweigh the upside. It will be tough to surpass “Charm City.” (Maybe bring that back?) More importantly catchy slogans used by many cities with great success focus on the present and the future instead of the past. Perhaps Baltimore, which seems to struggle with starts and stops of momentum needs a more “present day” slogan. Finally, as was mentioned earlier, the best slogans don’t just sound nice. They inspire. They persuade. They play a part in convincing tourists to come, businesses to relocate and locals to take pride in their city. Perhaps “Baltimore – Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner,” accomplishes the last item but not much more. Even then, it’s so specific it will appeal to some while others will hear it once and forget it forever.
Baltimore is an amazing city. It’s role in America’s history is significant. But you only get one slogan. That’s just a few words that need to express so much. Letting it ride on one event, albeit an important one, might be a mistake. Of course, nothing might happen. Unlike “Get In On It” that was commissioned and developed to be approved by a committee, this slogan is coming by way of legislation. And we all know anything can happen with that approach. Either way, we wish Baltimore luck.
This summer, several of our staff took a break from managing contests for catchy slogans and had a chance to see the original flag that the Star Spangled Banner was based around. It was on display at the Smithsonian. Simply being in its presence creates a magical, patriotic moment that words cannot express. And maybe that’s the problem here.