Things I do with words... Take your town slogan seriously

Tisdale, Sk. has finally changed its long-held and somewhat controversial slogan. No longer is it “The Land of Rape and Honey,” instead it declares that “Opportunity Grows Here.” The new slogan might not be copied for the title of a Ministry album, but at least there are no uncomfortable connotations, especially as rapeseed has been largely replaced by canola making the original meaning increasingly obscure.

I would argue that the new town slogan is even a good one, referencing the town’s primary industry while being vague enough that it doesn’t limit that opportunity to just one industry. That was also limitation of the old slogan – if you don’t want honey or rape, is there anything in Tisdale for you? The new slogan implies that there are lots of opportunities involving growing, but it’s not quite limited to that. You get a fairly good idea of what you’re getting with Tisdale thanks to the new slogan, spun in a positive way.

What do you want from a town slogan? It’s a way to give people an idea of what you’re town is about, while spinning it in a positive way. Sometimes they can seem nearly meaningless – Yorkton’s own “Where Good Things Happen” is an example, being extremely vague, and not really telling you that much about the town – but that actually doesn’t necessarily work as a detriment to a slogan’s quality – vagueness also works as adaptability, and Yorkton’s slogan has been able to be worked into a wide range of different announcements, initiatives and programs, it is very easy to put into a speech and local politicians know it. If a slogan winds up giving you a positive impression of the town it represents, it has succeeded. While I didn’t like the slogan when I first moved here, I have come to appreciate its utility, it can be used to say a lot in the right context, even if it says nothing at first glance.

Ideally, a town slogan is going to make people feel positively about your town. Maybe it’ll get people to want to visit, maybe it’ll get businesses to take a closer look when deciding where to expand or set up shop, either one is what the town wants when they cook up a slogan. Tisdale, for example, has selected a slogan which is clearly directed at economic development. Opportunity grows here, they say, so please take the opportunity to grow something. Yorkton’s slogan seems more driven at potential residents. If good things happen, the good things will happen to people who decide to live here. If either of these slogans encourage people to swing my town or possibly make it home, then the slogans have done their job, whatever residents might think of them at the time.

But here’s the thing, the bad slogans are the ones you remember. For instance, I don’t remember the slogan of the town where I grew up, even though I lived there for twenty years. I could not tell you the slogans of most major cities without looking it up. I only remember Yorkton’s slogan because local politicians love it and work it into speeches all the time. I do remember the slogan of Wolseley, Sk. It is the painfully factual “A Town Built Around a Lake.” It is accurate, sure, but it makes it seem like the town has exactly one feature – the lake it is built around – and there isn’t much else to talk about. Also, it implies that a very mundane feature is somehow worth celebrating, which somehow makes the town seem smaller and more insignificant. The complete lack of poetry in its phrasing is charming in its own strange way, and as a result it’s a town slogan I sometimes will remember out of nowhere, and subsequently giggle about how silly it is.

A town with a bad slogan, or a rude or funny name, can actually be good for tourism. People visit Climax, Sk. because it makes them laugh, same with Big Beaver. People drove to Tisdale just to get a photo of its infamous town sign. I have had people from out of province ask me to send them merchandise for Prince Albert, Sk. because the name is coincidentally also a name for a piercing in a man’s most private area. People make fun of these places, but they also go there, and some of them have embraced the joke tourism that their otherwise unfortunate name might engender.

It’s hard to be taken seriously though, and if you’re trying to grow and build your economy on something other than giggling people passing through, it might be a bigger priority to have a respectable name and slogan instead. Tisdale no longer wants to market itself to Ministry fans and people stunned by their slogan, they want people to take the town seriously. I think it’s a smart move for the town itself, because while it’s the end of a tradition it was a tradition that made the town a bit of a laughing stock. The new slogan might be less memorable, but it represents the town better, and it’ll be used in speeches by local politicians in ways the old one never could have been.

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