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The Press-News column. Aug 27

Does Christchurch really need a new slogan?

What is your favourite city destination? Wherever in the world it may be, I bet you can’t recall its official branding slogan. Because, chances are, the destination in question doesn’t even sport a silly little slogan. Most successful and self-respecting cities have cut the chord on feel-good straplines. Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland and Dunedin have all refreshed their tourism branding, sans slogans. Even Wellington’s famed  “Absolutely Positively” catchphrase is no longer in active service.  Brisbane is the odd man out, spruiking the asinine strapline, “Australia’s new world city.” Has Christopher Columbus just washed up in Moreton Bay? The mind boggles at how much the ratepayers of Brisbane involuntarily coughed up for that piece of dross.  But across this country, most towns and cities have shelled out mega-bucks on branding slogans. Our obsession with such banal fripperies borders on the pathological. But what it reveals is our underlying  sense of self-doubt  and insecurity, that are purportedly solved by slapping up a fresh chest-pumping strapline. Ashburton currently brandishes the catchphrase, “Life Just Gets Better.” Excuse me? Then again, it’s a slight improvement on its predecessor, “Whatever It Takes.” Hamilton currently peddles itself as “City of the Future.” Hmmm, you could be waiting a while. At least Danniverke had a bit of fun with its slogan, “  Take a liking to a Viking.” As the Weekend Press reported, city leaders are sizing up overhauling Christchurch’s branding – and the  “Garden City” tagline could be toast. With the completion of the city rebuild likely to gobble up the rest of the decade,  I would seriously question the prudence of expending serious dosh on a rebranding exercise, just yet.  And to deride the “Garden City” moniker as twee and conservative, misses the point. The Garden City is our city’s enduring sobriquet, an inter-generational nickname – not a shallow, well-spun slogan. It never ceases to amaze me how many out-of-towners, when corresponding with me, will say “ How’s the Garden City”? It’s central to our identity, and used affectionately. Christchurch Tourism boss, Tim Hunter, seems keen to see Christchurch rebranded the “city in a garden.”  This catchphrase, which emblazoned last year’s central city blueprint, was shamelessly pirated from SouthEast Asia. Several years ago, when Singapore embarked on its spectacular botanical transformation of Marina Bay and further afield, the multi-billion dollar project’s highly-publicised vision was to create “a city in a garden.” Singapore now struts itself as such. Does Christchurch really want to be freshly branded with a plagiarised positioning statement? If we’re hellbent on sexing up our branding – how about, “Christchurch :Re-created.” Or we could add a twist to the old favourite. “ The Garden City – Freshly forked. “

First published in The Press, Mike Yardley’s weekly column. Aug 27.

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