Hoping to create the kind of buzz that was generated by the Las Vegas slogan “What happens here, stays here,” the Downtown Phoenix Partnership commissioned a high-powered marketing firm to come up with a new “brand” for Phoenix. For the price of $160,000 they got: “Arizona’s urban heart.”

“To which,” one reader told me, “They should have added, ‘ . . . needs a defibrillator.’

I suppose it was fortunate that the well-paid marketing experts selected the heart as the most appropriate organ to describe our city. It could have been worse. If Phoenix is “Arizona’s urban heart,” however, does that mean there also is a “rural heart,” a “mountain heart,” a “godforsaken desert heart,” a corner-of-the-state-where-the-polygamists-live heart,” and so on? And if there were a “suburban heart” to Arizona wouldn’t that, too, be . . . Phoenix? The downtown partnership’s CEO told The Arizona Republic , “First off, a brand or an image that you are portraying has to reflect the reality, but it’s also aspirational. This is what we are focused on becoming.”Meaning what? Phoenix hopes someday to be the most vibrant urban area in Arizona? We’re there. That isn’t what best defines us. People who have lived here a long time know that what makes Phoenix unique is that it feels less like America’s fifth-largest city and more like its biggest small town. Does branding even make sense for a city?

Some time back, San Diego, which needs no hype, paid for the slogan: “365 Days of Ahhhhhhh!” Which sounds like the noise a tourist makes after stepping on a stingray. New Jersey supposedly hired a firm to come up with the slogan: “We’ll win you over.” The governor rejected it. (State officials should have gone with the brilliant but unsolicited suggestion: “New Jersey: You got a problem with that?”)

A few years back the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau paid $150,000 for “Live large; Think big.” For that kind of money they should have added, “spend foolishly.” One expert quoted in The Republic article said that cities trying to re-brand themselves should not play it safe. That’s why the Las Vegas slogan is so successful. He added that any good slogan also must be honest. Given that, if we apply the Vegas model to our town it would go something like: “What happens in Phoenix . . . doesn’t necessarily have to stay here.” Or, “What happens in Phoenix . . . also happens in Dallas and Denver and St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio, and . . . ”

Even better, we simply could switch our slogan from the declarative to the interrogative. As in: “What happens in Phoenix?” The great columnist Dave Barry is constantly coming up with new and better mottos for his home state of Florida – “We voted for WHOM?” – and the city of Miami – “Maybe you won’t get shot.” Sadly, his suggestions are ignored. The logo that will accompany the new Phoenix slogan features a green “X.” As in: “X marks the spot.” Hopefully, this will lead to a treasure hunt in which city dwellers can search for the $160,000 that the downtown partnership spent on the “Arizona’s urban heart” slogan.

Phoenix is no Brand “X.”

I’m sure that many of you could come up with suggestions for a motto that would reflect the reality and expectations of a growing, sun-drenched city in the desert Southwest that is striving to reach its pinnacle but isn’t there yet. Like: “Phoenix . . . half-baked.”

Source: The Arizona Republic