12 of the worst slogans ever used to promote cities

Take that, soreheads. Image: public domain

Whether it’s to boost tourism or to help create a general sense of civic pride, it’s important for a city to be more than a city: it should become A Brand. And as a brand, it needs a slogan! Unfortunately, lots of cities have traditionally been extremely bad at this for any number of reasons: here are some our favourite bad and/or baffling attempts at sloganeering:

“It’s a location, not a vocation!”

Necessity became the mother of invention when the unfortunately-named city of Hooker, Oklahoma was picking a motto. The town takes its name from a ranchman named John "Hooker" Threlkeld, despite the fact that Hooker wasn’t even what he was actually called - it was a either a nickname based on him having to ‘hook’ cows with a rope, or something to do with a resemblance to a civil war general. Still, what a legacy.

“Incredinburgh”

Edinburgh apparently paid someone £300,000 to come up with this slogan and associated logo, which resulted in the resignation of the CEO of Edinburgh’s dedicated marketing organisation. It was then replaced with Winterinedinburgh and Goaheadinburgh, which are of course, much better.

“Have the Tyne of your Life”

Newcastle, go and have a long hard think about what you’ve done.

“Say nice things about Detroit”

This slogan was born when Emily Gail, a Detroit local, was on holiday in Florida. She was so upset that people kept saying things like “Wow you must be really happy to be anywhere that isn’t Detroit!” that she paid for a banner to be displayed reading “Hi, Detroiters. Enjoy Florida. Say nice things about Detroit. Emily.” History doesn’t record whether people did it.

“Hong Kong will take your breath away.”

Image: DiscoverHongKong

A 2003 Hong Kong tourist campaign unfortunately coincided with a breakout of everyone’s favourite respiratory disease, Sars.

Where the trout leap in main street

Saratoga, Wyoming was originally “Where fish jump”, but gained this more... evocative name when a journalist described it as such in 1927. Disappointingly, as far as we can tell they don’t leap actually the street, unless it floods. They mostly just leap in the river near the street.

“The Biarritz of Wales”

This unlikely nickname for Aberystwyth apparently originated as a Victorian tourism campaign. It is true that they are both places by the sea.

“Pacemaker of the '70s”

You wouldn’t have thought it was possible to generate slogan more naff than the notorious “It's never dull in Hull!”, and yet. This was the result of a 1971 newspaper competition to find a new slogan for the same city, and managed to win despite making the city sound like it has a serious heart condition.

"En promille kan inte ha fel!" (Translation: A thousandth of the population can't be wrong.)

Vingåker, Sweden has a weirdly literal mathematical slogan about its population, which is presumably some sort of elaborate Swedish joke - TheLocal.se seem to think it could be some sort of pro-drink driving statement because “promille” is also the Swedesh term for blood alcohol level measurements.

“City of Cheese, Chairs, Children and Churches”

Sheboygan, Wisconsin cannot make its mind up.

“Weed like to welcome you”

The slogan of Weed, California. Obviously. It’s named after Abner Weed, a 19th century lumber mill owner. Stop sniggering at the back.

“DerbYes! The city where you can”

Image: from the long since the defunct DerbYes website.

Hey, Derby! More like: DerbNo!


 

 
 
 
 

What do new business rates pilots tell us about government’s appetite for devolution?

Sheffield Town Hall, 1897. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty.

There have been big question marks about any future devolution of business rates ever since the last general election stopped the legislation in its tracks.

Not only did it not make its way to the statute book before the pre-election cut off, it was nowhere to be seen in the Queen’s Speech, suggesting the Government had gone cold on the idea. (This scenario was complicated further recently by the introduction of a private members’ bill on business rates by Conservative MP Peter Bone, details of which remain scarce.)

However, regardless of the situation with legislation, the government’s announcement in recent days of a pilot phase of reforms suggests that business rates devolution will go ahead after all. DCLG has invited local authorities to take part in a pilot scheme which will allow volunteer authorities to retain 100 per cent of the business rates growth they generate locally. (It also notes that a further three pilots are currently in operation as they were set up under the last government.)

There are two interesting things in this announcement that give some insight on how the government would like to push the reform forward.

The first is that only authorities that come forward with their neighbours with a proposal to pool all business rates raised into one pot across a wider geography will be considered. This suggests that pooling is likely to be strongly encouraged under the new system, even more considering that the initial position was to give power to the Secretary of State to form pools unilaterally.

The second is that pooled authorities are given free rein to propose their own local arrangements. This includes determining, where applicable, a tier split (i.e. rates distribution between districts and counties), a plan for distributing additional growth across the pool, and how this will be managed between authorities.

It’s the second which is most interesting. Although current pools already have the ability to decide for some of their arrangements, it’s fair to say that the Theresa May-led government has been much less bullish on devolution than George Osborne in particular was, with policies having a much greater ‘top down’ feel to them (for example, the Industrial Strategy) rather than a move towards giving places the tools they need to support economic growth in their areas. So the decision to allow local authorities to come up with proposed arrangements feels like a change in approach from the centre.


Of course, the point of a pilot is to test different arrangements, and the outcomes of this experiment will be used to shape any future reform of the business rates system. Given the complexity of the system and the multitude of options for reform, this seems like a sensible approach to take. But it remains to be seen whether the complex reform of a national system can be led from the bottom up. In effect, making sure this local governance is driven by common growth objectives, rather than individual authorities’ interests, will be essential.

Nonetheless, the government’s reaffirmation of its commitment to business rates to devolution and its willingness to test new approaches is welcome. Given that the UK is one of the most centralised countries in the western world, moves to allow local authorities to keep at least some of the tax revenue that is generated in their area is a step forward in giving places more autonomy over how they spend their money. That interest in changing this appears to have been whetted once more is encouraging.

There are, however, a number of other issues with the current business rates system which need to be ironed out. Centre for Cities is currently working on a briefing of the business rates system, building on our previous work in this area, and we’ll be making suggestions as to how the system can be improved.

Hugo Bessis is a researcher for the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this article originally appeared.

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