The Universal Notebook: Portland, Maine. Yes. Life's a slogan here.
Portland’s new branding slogan, “Portland, Maine. Yes. Life’s good here,” is a rather bland, but serviceable mouthful. If the city doesn’t get sued by the Life Is Good chain, it will likely get a lot of mileage out of the endless variations on that awkward marketing phrase.
Museums and galleries, for example, can use “Portland, Maine. Yes. Art’s good here.” Restaurants can get on board with “Yes. Food’s good here.” And funeral parlors and cemeteries can brag “Yes. Death’s good here” or maybe “Yes. Life’s over here.”
The new slogan debuted last week to predictably mixed reviews, lacking as it does any hint of originality or marketable sizzle. I actually prefer the facetious slogan The Forecaster used as a headline, “Yes. (It’s all) good here.” While I detest that particular phrase, which suggests that the speaker is incapable of making any value judgment whatsoever, as a municipal slogan it has a bit of a pop culture edge, kind of like “Portland, Maine. Whatever.”
Personally, I am bothered by the modesty of the claim. Advertising is the art of strategic lying, so why not tell a whopper. I’d prefer “Portland, Maine. Yes. Life’s better here.” Or “Life’s best here.” Or “Portland, Maine. Yes. Life’s eternal here.”
Another problem with the new slogan is that it’s chopped up and confusing. The contraction is wasted in the midst of all that random capitalization, punctuation and verbiage. Might as well really go for it, as in “Portland, Maine. Yes. Life’s good here, especially if you’ve made your money elsewhere, don‘t need a job and can afford the tight real estate market.”
Don’t get me wrong. I was born in Portland. I love Portland. I have no plans to leave the area. But a little bit of honesty goes a long way with me. “Yes, Homelessness is good here.” “Yes. Panhandling’s good here.” “Portland, Maine. Yes. Will work for food.” “No. You can’t park here.” “Yes. We will boot you.”
For more than 20 years, Maine had one of the best statewide marketing slogans in America: “Maine, The Way Life Should Be.” But that phrase was retired a few years ago when economic development and tourism officials finally realized that people in New Jersey have no way of relating to “The Way Life Should Be” unless they have already been to Maine. We knew what the slogan meant, but the neurasthenic urbanites to the south didn’t.
The state has since tried out a pair of clunkers: “It must be Maine” and “There’s more to Maine.”
Actually, there isn’t.
Probably the most successful metro marketing slogan is the classic “I (HEART) New York,” but close behind it is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” a municipal campaign based on marketing mischief, misbehavior and misdemeanors. Genius. In fact, I was going to propose “What happens in Portland, stays in Portland,” but Gov. Paul LePage beat me to it, announcing his new media slogan, “What happens in the Blaine House, stays in the Blaine House.”
Not only has LePage ordered his department heads not to talk to the media, but his press person announced last week that she would no longer do business with the Portland Press Herald, making her even more irrelevant than she already is. The notoriously obstreperous governor has not weighed in yet on Portland’s new slogan, but given his well-known dislike for Maine’s largest city, and some of his colorful past pronouncements, you can be sure he will and we can hazard a guess at a few of his suggestions.
“Portland, Maine. Go to hell,” reprising his promise to disrespect President Obama, would be a LePage front-runner. “Portland, Maine. Kiss my butt,” echoing his response to the NAACP, would be a sure crowd-pleaser. “Portland, Maine. No comment” is an obvious one, although I understand “Paul LePage. No Comment” is in the running as the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign slogan.
But given that the governor signed onto a letter last week objecting to Portland’s proposed ban on styrofoam containers, it’s probably best to go with his most current malediction – “Portland, Maine. Yes. Life’s a nanny state here.”