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Regional Viewpoint -- Marketing slogan falls flat

WINNIPEG — It is important to acknowledge that naming or coming up with an appropriate slogan for a business organization, or a city, or a province is a major challenge.

It is difficult because the slogan must be brief, be inclusive, be liked, be believable and catch on.

“The selection of a name is an incredibly sensitive exercise,” writes Naeem Javed, author of “Naming for Power.”

I don’t like to be insensitive, but Travel Manitoba’s latest venture into marketing the province once again falls flat with the clumsy and wordy slogan, Manitoba: Canada’s Heart Beats. It is difficult to say. It includes an awkward possessive. What does it mean?

Perhaps the strategy was to build upon the sign-off of former CBC weatherman Ed Russenholt, who used to call us the “heart of the continent.”

Does Travel Manitoba consider us the heart of the country? If so, try and sell that in the heavily populated area of southern Ontario, which for years has been identified as Central Canada, while Manitoba is simply viewed as part of the West. None of our political leaders over the years has ever attempted to right this error in geographical sovereignty.

Our only claim to centrality is an innocuous sign on the Trans-Canada Highway near Landmark, which identifies the longitudinal centre of Canada. It’s hard to imagine the new slogan alone will lure more tourists but, granted, it is an improvement over earlier efforts — “It’s Manitoba time,” which was reminiscent of the introductory song to the popular children’s program of the 1950s, the “Howdy Doody Show”; and “Spirited Energy,” which would be appropriate as a motivational theme for Hydro employees.

The new Travel Manitoba slogan was likely tested on focus groups to convince the agency and clients they were on the right track. Again, naming expert Javed recommends against focus-group testing. “Focus groups don’t work,” he says. “Focus groups have value, but it is no way to choose a name for a company or a product!”

So what provinces, cities have good, lasting slogans? Without conducting any formal research, I will simply list the ones that spring to mind.

“Beautiful British Columbia” is a natural. Sounds easy, but it’s remembered because it’s true. “Wild Rose Country” is Alberta’s. One can visualize the foothills. “Yours to Discover” is Ontario’s. Lots to see and do there. My favourite city slogan is that of Thunder Bay, “Superior by Nature.” Simple and brilliant.

For many years, Newfoundland and Labrador have been promoting their province by airing the most beautiful and artful television ads of any province or state in North America. It seems Manitoba is to borrow from Newfoundland’s idea and use the same concept for television promotion.

All right, it’s easy to criticize. What could or should Manitoba’s slogan be?

How about “Manitoba — Grand Horizons”? Or, staying with the horizon’s theme, “Infinite Horizons.” It speaks to our province’s unlimited potential, its grand ambitions and the fact that geographically you can see for miles and miles without those annoying mountains or hills getting in the way.

We already have grand lakes, a Grand Beach, Grand Rapids and a grand ocean. Polar bears are grand beasts.

Speaking about flatness doesn’t cut it, but “Grand Horizons” gives the sense of wide-open Prairie spaces with lots of room to roam. As well, who doesn’t like to see a beautiful sunrise or sunset?

Grand Horizons fits nicely on a licence plate. It even works well in French. Perhaps there will be a next time?

» Terry Aseltine is a communications consultant. He is credited with creating the name CentreVenture for Winnipeg’s development agency.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 31, 2013

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yes, the curse of focus groups.

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WINNIPEG — It is important to acknowledge that naming or coming up with an appropriate slogan for a business organization, or a city, or a province is a major challenge.

It is difficult because the slogan must be brief, be inclusive, be liked, be believable and catch on.

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WINNIPEG — It is important to acknowledge that naming or coming up with an appropriate slogan for a business organization, or a city, or a province is a major challenge.

It is difficult because the slogan must be brief, be inclusive, be liked, be believable and catch on.

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