top of page

Ideas, Insights and Rambles.

A blog by Lindsey Fair

A 'curiosity' about slogans

Have we reached saturation or just laziness? Let me clarify what I'm referring to. Have you noticed the slogans around you lately? Probably not. Think harder. Still no? That's because they are suffering from an over-abundance of sameness that they are disappearing (Zukin, 2009). Perhaps not so for private-sector/commercial slogans, but city slogans and higher ed slogans suffer from a similar fate. Possibly, according to Anholt (2006), brand managers are a little "confused about the distinction between their outward signs such as slogans and logos and the complex underlying strategy and long-term behavioural change which ought to underpin such ephemera." In other words, they forget to look at what makes their city, community, campus truly unique, embodied and performed. They fall victim to creating artificial 'place' brands that lack credibility because they are no longer connected to the local identity (Vanolo, 2015). Want proof?

City of Barry > Recently contested slogan "Well played" says nothing about what Barry has to offer, really. Not to mention - it kind of seems like it's making fun of itself, doesn't it? [Read more: news story about recent concerns about the slogan].

Langford, BC > Less than a year old, "Where it all happens" not only represents a nothingness, my son summed it up well as an outsider when I read it to him "I doubt it is where anything happens, let along ALL". Although they did announce an internal slogan simultaneously which is "Make sh#t happen", which at least provides a sense of action for the community to perhaps live up to the external slogan. [Read more: news story about the launch of their new slogans.]

California State University > Their official slogan is "No barriers". They have a whole story about why, but the story itself makes it sound even more like it could be the slogan for almost any university. Do you know where this one could work, though? University of Toronto - given that it doesn't have a defined perimeter of its campus, but that's getting too practical, I guess. Funny enough, on CSU's official slogan story page, they do go on to explain the unofficial slogans created by their communities - now that's something. Perhaps, brands should be developed bottom-up instead of top-down?

Truman State University > Apparently, 2020 was the year to 're-brand' as Truman unveiled "Distinct by Design" less than a year ago as well. I haven't seen that in higher ed before, so that's a positive, but get this - they don't offer design programs - or least, if they do, they aren't their flagship programs or easy to find. I know that they weren't trying to be that literal, but connecting words to try signals of value or why those words in some sort of obvious fashion would undoubtedly help. If I saw this slogan without the institutional name next to it - I would not have a 'Just do it' moment; in fact, if anything, I may think it's a new slogan for OCAD (BTW, OCAD's slogan isn't that bad "Imagination is everything"). [Read more: New slogan unveilled]

But here's the best one... after a simple Google Image Search, I was able to find 6 universities (Monash, UVic, Queen's, Emory, Faber all shown below, Shenandoah not an ad but their page title in Google) in North America that have very recent examples using the word 'curiosity' as their campaign slogan. Surely, we know that PSE, in general, is trying to inspire curiosity in its' learners, but if everyone is using it, doesn't it lose its meaning?

Simple slogans like 'Just do it' work even within their simpleness or lack of uniqueness comes down to money. They have big bucks behind it over a long period (160over90, 2012 - which does a great job making fun of university slogans on every page). In a world of austerity, public brands such as cities and universities don't stand a chance with such generic mumbo jumbo (that's official academic-speak, right?); they need to dive a bit deeper and spend time figuring out what really makes them tick - that if put on a bus shelter would speak to who they are and more importantly... who their competitors are NOT (Cleave & Arku, 2014).


160over90. (2012). Three and a tree: How to take down bad unviersity marketing one cliche at a time. One Sixty Over Ninety, Inc.

Anholt, S. (2006). Competitive identity: The new brand management for nations, cities and regions. In Competitive Identity: The New Brand Management for Nations, Cities and Regions.

Cleave, E., & Arku, G. (2015). Place branding and economic development at the local level in Ontario, Canada. GeoJournal, 80(3), 323–338.

Vanolo, A. (2015). The image of the creative city, eight years later: Turin, urban branding and the economic crisis taboo. Cities, 46, 1–7.

Zukin, S. (2009). Naked city: The death and life of authentic urban places. Oxford University Press.


bottom of page