What’s your town’s slogan? “We’re Better Than Waco.” “Sea Weedville – Pleasant at Low Tide.” “Best Town in Southeast Rattlesnake County.” OK, now we need to find a good handle for Washington, DC. How about: “A Capital Idea” or “A Monumental Undertaking”? Maybe: “The District of Confusion.” This brainstorming about names is because Washington’s civic and tourism leaders feel their city needs a catch phrase as good as, “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” or “I Love New York” to help attract visitors. “Brand naming,” it’s called. In the late 1980s Washington used “A Capital City,” but the high murder rate which caused the place to be called “Murder Capital of America” caused cancellation of that slogan. Then a few years ago the city sold license plates to the locals sporting: “Taxation Without Representation,” but that was in protest over the lack of a voting seat in Congress. Washington tourism officials have now hired two brand research firms to convene focus groups and conduct international surveys of attitudes on the problem. The matter has urgency because Washington is dependent on the tourism business. In 2005, the last year of available figures, some 15 million visitors spent $5 billion, generating $543 million in tax revenue. In addition to the other moves, DC officials have set up shareyourdc.com so anyone can suggest a slogan. Every city and state wants the perfect catch phrase to help boost tourism and attract businesses, but the search can be a tricky deal. Last year New Jersey spent $250,000 for an ad firm to come up with a new state slogan. It did: “New Jersey: We'll Win You Over.” But the governor at the time said the slogan was negative and reminded him of his own self-deprecating pitch when he asked girls out on dates. A contest was held and the winner was, ''Come See for Yourself,” which was trotted out with great fanfare until someone pointed out that West Virginia along with a few other states had already used that title. Back to the drawing board for the Garden State. Martinsville, Va. uses: “A City Without Limits,” which is kind of cute. So is Walla Walla, Wash., which touts: “The City So Nice They Named It Twice.” Some places make you really not want to go there. Collinsville, Ill., is: “Horseradish Capital of the World.” Gilroy, Calif. is: "the Garlic Capital of the World!" Placerville, Calif. is: “Hangtown.” Bellingham, Wash., is, no kidding, “The City of Subdued Excitement.” Seattle had been using “City of Flowers” but decided to change. Sixteen months and $200,000 later paid to a brand ad company, Seattle was “Metronatural.” Yawn. Baltimore paid $500,000 to a company which came up with “Get It On.” Crabtown, as Baltimore is sometimes known, paid $270,000 for another brand firm to hatch, “Baltimore is Better.” The next year the city tried again, with a $2 million ad campaign the slogan was, “Baltimore Believe.” The word “Believe” was affixed to cars, trucks, billboards, anywhere it fit. Vandals altered it to “Behave.” Then there is the city slogan for Rochester, Minn.: “Rah-Rah-Rochester. And for Omaha, simply: “O!” I’m not sure what to make of those, but it doesn’t include a trip there. “The City of Brotherly Love” can only mean Philadelphia. Back in the turbulent civil rights days of the 60s and 70s, Atlanta used: “The City Too Busy to Hate: Atlanta.” But when you hear its new slogan, “Every Day is Opening Day,” do you automatically conjure up Atlanta? Another expensive yawn. Same for Louisville. “We've Got It.” When newspaper columnist Herb Caen coined the term, "Baghdad by the Bay" for San Francisco, the title had a completely different meaning than it does today. There are a lot more Capitals of Something than just horseradish and garlic. Other places claim to the world’s capital of the artichoke and rhubarb pie. Sanderson, Texas, is: “Cactus Capital of the World.” New York City, the Big Apple, modestly claims: “Capital of the World.” Here in Texas, Dallas uses the totally forgettable, “Live Large, Think Big.” San Antonio is obviously “The Alamo City.” No other place can use that handle. There are a lot of Gateways around the nation, and Texas has at least two: Junction: “Gateway to the Hill Country” and Childress, “Gateway to the Texas Panhandle.” I suppose Paducah (yes, there is a Paducah, Texas) could use, “Gateway to Childress.” Fayetteville is: “The Way Texas Used To Be.” Castroville is: “The Little Alsace of Texas.” Houston, you have a problem. The Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau has spent $75 million in the last 30 years to promote the city, and has experimented with all sorts of slogans. During the oil bust of the 1980s, the city was "Houston Proud." When the economy began to recover, billboards proclaimed that "Houston's Hot." Another city slogan — "SpaceCity. A Space of Infinite Possibilities" — never quite caught fire, either. The only label that has stuck is the unofficial "Bayou City," which could describe any town from Brownsville to Tampa. Then Houston had, “Expect the Unexpected.” After a City Hall scandal, some wags preferred, “Suspect the Unindicted.” Finally two advertising guys came up with, “Houston. It's Worth It,” which immediately caught on with cynics. The originators set up a Web site – www.houstonitsworthit.com — and have received thousands of suggestions dealing with smog, traffic and mosquitoes, but, for some unknown reason, there has been no official acceptance by the city. I hope your city’s slogan is guaranteed to bring in the tourists and Toyota plants. As we have seen, your home town can be “The Capital of…” or “The City of…” but those titles have been pretty well overused as has “Gateway to…” Johnson City still gets mileage out of “Home of Lyndon Johnson,” and Alvin used to claim “Home of Nolan Ryan” until he moved to Round Rock. As for our nation’s capital, here’s one: “Come to Washington – Visit Your Money.” Ashby’s slogan is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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