We learned this week that city officials and business leaders in Portland have been secretly at work on a new marketing campaign for our municipality and have apparently settled on a slogan that will soon be revealed to the masses. The timing of this news is troubling, as it implies it’s too late for average citizens to make suggestions, which is a very undemocratic way to craft an ad campaign. For what they’re worth, here are my ideas:
Portland is a very hip city, but most of our fellow Americans don’t realize it. Seasonal tourists are also often caught unprepared for Maine weather. So how about, “Portland: Cooler Than You Think — Bring a Jacket.”
The first thing most visitors now encounter driving into town are panhandlers in the traffic medians. The savvy marketer would pay these people to double as Walmart-style greeters, shaggy ambassadors to the Forest City. I like: “Portland: A Friend on Every Corner.”
Construction is also a common sight this time of year. Sure, it’s a hassle, but it’s also a sign of progress, of a city that’s evolving, of a place with plenty of good-paying government jobs. What about, “Portland: Road Work Ahead”?
Portland may very likely become one of the few American cities where marijuana is legal. We’d be foolish not to capitalize on that. I’d go with either “Green Grass and High Tides” or “Get Cobblestoned!”
Portland may also be one of the first American cities submerged by rising seas caused by global warming. I like, “Portland: Atlantis of the Future.”
Here’s a nifty slogan that both furthers the fiction there are lighthouses in the city while promoting all the new hotels we’ll have in the next couple years: “Portland: We’ll Leave the Headlight On.”
Mayor Mike Brennan promises the new slogan will “put Portland on the map.” That’s a start. Visitors are often bedeviled by our downtown, riddled as it is with confusing intersections, wacky one-ways and streets that change their name for no apparent reason. That said, getting lost is part of the adventure. Mr. Mayor, I submit to you, “Portland, Maine: A Hot Mess for Your GPS.”
Many cities look to their past to come up with a snappy slogan. We could tip our hat to history, promote our safety, and turn our overtime-bloated fire department from a fiscal liability into marketing gold with, “Portland, Maine: Inferno Free Since 1866.” There’s also our most famous poet (“Portland: A Wadsworth of Fun!”) and all the names the natives gave to this land (“Machigonne Wild!” “Aucocisco A-Go-Go,” “Falmouth Neck is for Neckers!”).
Portland’s food scene is nationally recognized for its excellence, so I say we milk that cow some more (“Portland: Toothpick of the Pine Tree State”). Our restaurants were some of the first in the country to cater to the celiac disease crowd (“Portland: Gluten Free Since 2003,” or, more dramatically, “Gluten Free or Die”). Gotta give the lobster industry some love: “The Capital of Crustacean Nation.” And craft beer can always use a boost: “Land of 1,000 Lagers,” “No Crap on Tap,” “Microbrew for Me and You,” etc.
Unfortunately, our nutty governor is also giving us a national reputation. Based on the election results, this city rightly can, and should, distance itself from his shenanigans: “Portland: We Didn’t Vote for That Clown.” (Note: New marketing campaign may or may not be necessary after November 2014.)
Westbrook has been trying to mooch off our creative economy with the patently false slogan, “Artists Live Here.” I suggest Portland take a more truthful approach: “Artists Starve Here.” (Note: Starvation is not considered a negative in arts advertising but rather a reference to rock-bottom prices.)
Portland is not New York, or Los Angeles, or Paris — thank God. Let’s celebrate that by adopting the moniker, “The Land That Fashion Forgot.” I also like “Portland: Two Years Behind Every Trend.” Or how about “The City of Plaid Shoulders.” Or simply, “Sweatpants in Public OK.”
There are practical slogans to consider: “Portland: Like Us on Facebook,” or “Portland: Don’t Feed the Goddamn Gulls!”
But I think the marketing experts are correct when they say we really need to differentiate ourselves from that “other Portland” — you know, the one everyone outside Maine talks about like it’s the only freakin’ Portland on the planet? It’s infuriating! Yeah, we’re smaller, but so what? Our city was founded before theirs was and, according to the Internet, they copied our name because they couldn’t think up their own.
That’s it, last one: “Portland, Maine: More Original Than Oregon.”