Backstory: Baltimore - 'Home of 1,000 slogans'
Crafting an identity is a million-dollar affair - but would a city by any other name, slogan, or motto, sell as well?
Gilbert Sandler, a popular historian of Baltimore, has seen it before. We all have. "We seem to go through this search for a slogan every few years," he says of this city's latest effort to find or invent an identifying word, phrase or logo.Skip to next paragraph
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"Same with a Baltimore song. Maybe we're destined to be slogan-less, and without a song."
Many image makers have passed through here. Faith Popcorn, the famous futurist, arrived in 2001. She branded and repositioned us, left a slogan or two involving the letter "B" - Baltimore is Better - then departed with $275,000.
Following the year of Popcorn, the city launched the Baltimore Believe campaign. Cost? Over $2 million. It was meant to make us - we who live here, happily or otherwise - feel better about ourselves. The word BELIEVE was affixed to cars, trucks, billboards, anywhere it fit. Vandals altered it to BEHAVE.
We've had a semi-official song, and slogans and odd monikers: Crabtown and Charm City in recent years, Queen City of the Patapsco and Nickel Town from times past.
The song went something like this: "Balti-More than you knowwww...." The rest has fled my memory. Official city songs and slogans are about as indelible as the names of poet laureates.
One local wrote to The Baltimore Sun insisting we already have a song: "O, say can you seeee..." The proprietary impulse toward the national anthem, because it was written here, is not unusual.
The people of Charm City - one city moniker first put on paper, says Mr. Sandler, by a Baltimore ad writer in 1975 - are mildly animated by the new campaign, not so much by its potential, but by the $500,000 the city will pay to have our many cultural delights and urban amenities marketed to the world.
Chief enthusiast is Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum, and local head of the project known as Baltimore's "Destination Repositioning."
By this spring, he says, Landor Associates, the brand strategists and design consultants who got the contract, will unveil their "basic distillation of our advantages."
Why? So we can lure more people here to enjoy them, and pay us for the pleasure of doing so.
Sound crassly commercial? Maybe, but the competition for the last tourist standing is intense. We must accentuate our differences from Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston, says Clarence Bishop, chief of staff to Martin O'Malley, mayor of the city of Baltimore and world famous rock star. (Well, world famous in Baltimore.)
The Landor people, no doubt, were selected because of their many achievements. They have designed brands for places as diverse as Hong Kong ("Asia's World City"), the State of Florida (The letters FLA over USA.), and, in the Persian Gulf, "Brand Oman." This suggests how chic branding has become. From New Zealand to New Jersey, the urge to brand one's self, country, or corporation is manifest. Poland got a new national logo to draw attention to itself: a kite. Philadelphia, "The City of Brotherly Love," is now "The City That Loves You Back."
"I believe in branding in a big way," said Susan Palombo, of Landor. Their product, or "distillation," she said, "will have a visual expression, color, a logo, banners."
A song? "Music's not part of it ." Drat! "But it will have a tag line."Tag line? "A layman's term for slogan."
In November, Ms. Palombo told the City Council that the perception of Baltimore is "very bad," especially among people who've never been here. This was no surprise, considering Baltimore's alarming murder rate, which the mayor has been struggling to bring down.