Your Small Town Slogan is Not an Effective Brand

by Joanne Steele on May 31, 2011


On May 26, printed an article by Pete Griffin, What’s In a Name? Slogans Can Make or Break a City, Experts Say, that seems to imply that all a small town needs to succeed as a tourism destination is a good slogan.

Weed welcome signThis is an absurd distraction from the hard work small towns are facing as they set their sights on building their tourism economy.

People visit small towns, not because of a slogan, but because of the authentic experience a community offers that fulfills a need, desire or curiosity of the visitor.

I happen to personally know two of the towns mentioned in this article.

Weed, California

Weed, California understands the benefits and liabilities associated with its name. Two prosperous local businesses are exploiting the benefits.

One, The Mt. Shasta Brewing Company selling Weed Ales touts “try legal Weed” right on their bottle caps. And the Weed Store is making great money selling “I heart Weed” tee shirts and other Weed souvenirs. They even have an online store!

Stephanie Shaver quoted in the article is a tireless and effective marketer of her town, with no illusions that the slogan, “Weed Like to Welcome You” is bringing anybody off the Interstate and into town.

She does, however, understand that the name is attracting attention, and is working her heart out growing the town’s arts focus that will attract and keep visitors.

Dumas, Arkansas

Dumas, Arkansas is close to the Mississippi Delta Region. I taught an internet marketing training there for the Arkansas Small Business Technology & Development Center last month, and nobody in attendance listed Ding Dong Daddy as a Rural Culture Asset.

What I did learn is that they have a nationally acclaimed potter, Gail Miller, who runs Miller’s Mud Mill in Dumas. I treasure the gift Gail gave me at the end of the day-long workshop. People will come to Dumas to visit Gail and watch she and her family members create extraordinary pottery.

Dumas is right on Arkansas’s Great River Road, which is a popular geocaching destination. People are definitely coming through Dumas because of that.

Dumas is working hard to build their tourism industry, and nobody is expecting that a slogan, “Home of Ding Dong Daddy” is going to make that happen, nor do they expect it to be a hindrance.

Branding success is a long slow process for small towns, and any implication that the process can be short circuited by a catchy name is an insult to all the communities who have achieved success.

Below, I have links to a series I wrote two years ago on building a brand for your rural community. Each post is rich with useful information, and you’ll see the issue of a slogan or name addressed particularly in Part 4 Building Your Small Town Primary Vision into a Brand.

And remember, the New York and Las Vegas slogans cited in the article came well after the hard work of earning those brands had begun.

Enjoy these post posts:

Creating Small Town Tourism Success Part 1, Branding

Part 2 – Creating Authentic Experiences to Brand your Small Town

Branding Your Small Town Part 3 – Building Consensus

Part 4 – Building your Small Town Primary Vision into a Brand

Part 5 – Marketing your Rural Tourism Town’s New Brand



1 Don Murphy June 8, 2011 at 8:08 pm

You’re always on top of the small town issues for better economics. Thank you for keeping me in the loop!
This year is our 8th successful SCOTT VALLEY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL year. The bands keep getting better and the audiences bigger. I was able to negotiate the festival to be under the umbrella of Scott Valley Scholarships which has been a good thing because the benefactors are the valley’s graduating seniors. In the past 7 years we have been able to generate $20,000 for our grads and the sponsors are willing to sponsor such a function even in difficult economic times. If you find yourself in the area on July 16th and 17th, I’d love to send you a couple of comp tickets. Or just call me on your way and I’ll meet you at the gate.

Thank you

2 Joanne Steele June 10, 2011 at 10:10 am

This even is a great example of what a few determined, dedicated townspeople can accomplish. It’s small town power at its best. I’ll be in touch if we’re able to make it this year.

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