Branding exercise was destined for mixed reviews
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/06/2022 (360 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When the City of Winnipeg unveiled “Made From What’s Real” and an accompanying logo as its new brand for its tourism and economic-development campaigns, it found being the butt of jokes on social media can be all too real.
Numerous sarcastic jabs wondered why it took two years of research and consultations to come up with a bland slogan to which any other community in the world could justifiably lay claim.
Who wouldn’t want to be “real?” (Though conversely, there’s bound to be a city or district out there that calls itself “unreal.”)
Describing what a city is all about in a few well-chosen words is a bit like eating spaghetti while wearing your Sunday best: it requires a deft hand to avoid making an embarrassing mess.
One notable flop happened in 2006 when Manitoba unveiled “Spirited Energy” as its new slogan to spearhead a $2.1-million summer advertising campaign.
Just as they have with “Made From What’s Real,” know-it-alls had a field day mocking the phrase. The bad first impression stuck, and by 2008 the government’s enthusiasm for “Spirited Energy” had dissipated, and many consider it to be a made-in-Manitoba debacle on par with the Ford Motor Company’s spectacularly unsuccessful 1950s flop, the Edsel.
In 2013, the province created “Canada’s Heart Beats,” a solid sentiment that received far less fanfare but has had much greater staying power. It remains the theme for Travel Manitoba.
McKim.Sherpa, a local marketing firm that devised “Manitoba: Canada’s Heart Beats,” took on the daunting challenge for the city that has resulted in “Made From What’s Real.” One can imagine lengthy brainstorming sessions involving creative minds offering up countless catchphrases, themes and logos for hours at a time, filling up recycling bins with reams of rejects.
It brings to mind Don Draper, the fictional advertising exec from the TV show Mad Men, who spent an entire episode failing to conjure a slogan for a cigarette company before blurting out the acceptably pithy “It’s toasted,” just as his clients were ready to walk out.
It’s difficult to predict or understand which catchphrase will succeed and which will be a dud.
Another seemingly banal Winnipeg slogan, “One Great City,” was introduced in 1990 and, just as it has in 2022, the city plastered the line on road signs and in advertising.
Whether it actually resonated with tourists or investors is anyone’s guess, but Winnipeggers welcomed it and some even treated it as a defiant rallying cry, especially when friends, relatives and even a beloved hockey team left the city for supposedly greener pastures.
Even popular brands are perishable, so in 2008 the city chose a new tag, “Heart of the Continent.” The two-way title — Winnipeg is in the centre of North America and it suggests its citizens have heart — came not from a fancy focus group, but from a list of submissions former mayor Sam Katz sought from from Winnipeggers.
Dayna Spiring, the head of Economic Development Winnipeg, believes the new branding could help change the city’s sometimes self-deprecating attitude, even if such a shift wasn’t fully apparent in the moments after “Made From What’s Real” was first unveiled.
It’s too soon to say whether travellers and investors will take to the new catchphrase.
If they look beyond snappy slogans, however, and consider what Winnipeg has to offer — expansive parks that offer year-round recreational opportunities, distinctive museums, sports and entertainment possibilities and centuries of history created by diverse cultures who’ve chosen to live here — what they’ll see is an authentic Canadian city that has found its own unique version of real.
Updated on Friday, June 17, 2022 12:17 PM CDT: Corrects reference to McKim.Sherpa's previous branding work.