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Random Friday Question: What's D.C.'s Slogan?

No Googling--just your best guess: Do you know Washington's official tourism slogan?

Probably you know Virginia's--Virginia Is For Lovers. That may be the best state tourism slogan of all time, and it wormed its way into the pop culture right after the state adopted it in 1969. Luckily, the state is keeping the slogan--which was born at a Richmond ad agency during the days of Woodstock and Erich Segal's "Love Story"--despite a silly recent controversy about whether the symbol that accompanies the slogan somehow mimicked a nasty gang sign.

(Maryland's slogan is the clunky and strange "Seize the Day Off." I don't get it, either.)

But how about Washington's?

Writer David Henderson is putting together a book tentatively titled "Making News in a New Media World" in which he will advise executives and organization leaders on how to get their messages out through the news media. As part of that work, he got to thinking about slogans and when, if ever, they are effective.

Then he read a news story about the District's tourism slogan and realized that although it's been in use for nearly a decade, he had had no idea what it was.

So he sent out a simple request to 60 national and local journalists, attorneys, administrators, Realtors, local business owners, leaders of associations and some friends--all people who live in Washington or used to. Tell me the city's tourism slogan, he said.

Well, you can probably predict the results: 43 of the 44 people who responded came up empty. The one guy who knew was the editor of a trade publication who had just been to Boston, where he'd seen an ad for D.C. tourism and so the slogan was fresh in his mind. My response was wrong: I thought the slogan was still "A Capital City," which still appears on some of the older license plates around town.

Without looking it up, come ahead with your guess on the comment board below. I'll post the real slogan here on the big blog at noon today.

"Most slogans are ineffective -- we, as a society, communicate in sentences, not cryptic taglines," Henderson says. "The better communicators among us have recognized the benefits of concise, clear and accurate messages to communicate an idea or news. We just don't use slogans in conversation.... Slogans have become less and less effective. Slogans and taglines will never replace authentic messages that seem to reach inside and connect with our emotions."

All true, but we also know that slogans can be very sticky, and that plays at least some role in good marketing. I know that Winston tastes good like a cigarette should, even if 40 years later, I still haven't bought their product.
And for those of you who grew up in southern California in a certain era, you will always believe that Tina Delgado is alive--alive! even if you have never know exactly what that means.

Washington's slogan is pretty lame and utterly unmemorable. Can you do better?

By Marc Fisher |  August 31, 2007; 7:51 AM ET
Previous: Boys & Girls Clubs: A D.C. Bailout? | Next: RFQ Follow-Up: D.C.'s Slogan Revealed

Comments

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"DC: a School Free Drug Zone!"

Posted by: Stick | August 31, 2007 8:40 AM

I remember the old "Celebrate & Discover" as well, but I believe the new one is "The American Experience" ???

Along the lines of Stick, I used to tell people that Maryland's slogan is "PLEASE DRIVE GENTLY."

Posted by: Joe in SS | August 31, 2007 8:50 AM

"DC: Work Like a Boy; Get Paid Like a Man!"

Posted by: Stick | August 31, 2007 8:54 AM

I'm fairly certain Joe is right about "The American Experience"; that said, I believe DC has hired a big-name PR firm to come up with a new slogan and a campaign that they are going to be unveiling later this year and that they've described (since they've apparently already come up with it, and are sitting on it for dramatic effect) as being on par with Las Vegas' "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". ("DC: What happen here gets sent back to home districts in the form of pork"?)

Posted by: Sweth | August 31, 2007 9:11 AM

"Too Small To Be A State, Too Big To Be An Insane Asylum."

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 9:27 AM

"DC: More craters than the moon!"

"DC: It's 10pm, do you know where the people are?"

"DC: Baseball Stadium for Rent"

"DC: The Nation's Capital?"

"DC: Walk Left, Stand Right"

While we're at it, how about a new slogan for Metro?

"Metro Opens Sh**"

Posted by: nocando | August 31, 2007 9:28 AM

"Washington, DC: Where Your Tax Dollars Go To Die."

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 9:28 AM

Joe: There was a backlash in DC Government when Celebrate and Discover was thrust upon us during the Columbian Quincentenary in 1991-1992. At a brain-storming session at the District Building - now the Wilson Building - the committee adopted an extension to C and D, the name of a Folks Arts program I ran for DC. The full slogan became Celebrate and Discover the City beyond the Monuments. It didn't help attract any more tourists to venture off the Mall, but assuaged the local pride of DC tourism insiders.

There is something much worse than coining tourism slogans - Government By Slogan. During Barry and Pratt-Kelly-Pratt administrations, incredible amounts of funding and staff time were devoted to devising and promulgating slogans about social problems rather than helping people in need. Government By Slogan is a form of magical thinking. If enough buttons and bumper stickers are circulated, problems will somehow vanish. On the national level, old people may remember WIN, Whip Inflation Now.

This pernicious waste of public funds and citizen attention must be stomped out whenever it rears its motto-mottled head.

Posted by: Mike Licht | August 31, 2007 9:28 AM

"A Capital City" was about a B+. "Celebrate and Discover" was insipid. I hope that's not it. But I absolutely love "Taxation Without Representation." I don't suppose that's our tourist slogan? If we have another one, I've never noticed it.

Posted by: Jon | August 31, 2007 9:29 AM

"Land of the Lawyers, Home of the Lobbyists."

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 9:31 AM

I remember Whip Inflation Now, along with wage controls. So watch who you're calling "old"! Sonny.

Posted by: Stick | August 31, 2007 9:33 AM

"Welcome Tourists; We Hope You Brought Money."

"No, It's Not A SHOPPING Mall."

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 9:35 AM

DCist had a post and active comment thread on this back in March. "DC - But It's A Wet, Sweaty Heat" and "DC - Half Smokey" are my favorites.

Here's a link: http://dcist.com/2007/03/27/washington_dc_i.php

Posted by: Adam | August 31, 2007 9:50 AM

"DC: What do you expect, it's a SWAMP!"

Posted by: DCBP | August 31, 2007 9:53 AM

Easy:

"You elected 'em.
You sent 'em here.
Don't blame us!"

Posted by: mikes | August 31, 2007 9:56 AM

I believe it is "An American Experience".

Posted by: chinatown | August 31, 2007 9:59 AM


"Birthplace of the Half-Smoke"

"Where even the fish jaywalk"

Posted by: Tim Burn | August 31, 2007 10:15 AM

Tourism and humor aside, Washington should take a page from London's book and use branding to convey a sense of confidence and readiness to respond to the ubiquitous threat of terrorism and other challenges to our nation's capital. This would help reassure residents and visitors alike and send a message to would-be attackers. As I understand it, "London Prepared" is the slogan the Brits have come up with. Not bad - particularly if it's not JUST a slogan.

Posted by: Peter Gadzinski | August 31, 2007 10:26 AM

"DC - At least we're not Virginia."

"DC - Where the commute ends."

"DC - Charm like the North, efficiency like the South."

""

Posted by: otter | August 31, 2007 10:30 AM

"(slogan redacted for national security purposes)?

Posted by: otter | August 31, 2007 10:32 AM

DC - E.A.T. I.T. (Enigmatic Acronyms To Infuriate Tourists).

Posted by: joeSchmoe | August 31, 2007 10:33 AM

"DC: Taxation without Representation

Posted by: dee | August 31, 2007 10:39 AM

"DC: Dont Aks, Don't Tell!"

Posted by: Stick | August 31, 2007 10:42 AM

Washington D.C.: Wait, There's Crap To Do Beyond the Monuments!?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2007 10:44 AM

Where fruitcakes come to get away!
Land of a 1000 laughs!
What happens in DC gets around the world in 24 minutes.
Land of toe-tappin...
****
Seriously, taxation without representation is good, but does not sound touristy...so I will go with "the american experience"

Posted by: Fred | August 31, 2007 10:44 AM

Alas, Stick we are old. If you don't think so, read the Don Steele web site.

Posted by: A Hardwick | August 31, 2007 10:46 AM

I think "Taxation Without Representation" would make a great tourism slogan. It makes us sound all free-wheeling and wacky, as if at any moment you could stumble across a posse of natives pushing crates of tea into the Potomac. Who wouldn't want to vacation there??

Posted by: h3 | August 31, 2007 10:47 AM

"DC: Roy Pearson's Employer"

Posted by: HA HA | August 31, 2007 10:51 AM

"Less Crime Than New Orleans, And Five Feet Higher, Too!"

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 10:51 AM

come, be inspired

Posted by: Kim W. | August 31, 2007 10:52 AM

"So Much Bloat In So Little Space"

Posted by: DC slogan | August 31, 2007 10:52 AM

"DC Is For Gridlock, From Your House To The Senate."

"The Magic Is Traffic"

"Drug Czar Us"

"DC -- We're Taxtastic!"

Posted by: Thimmesch | August 31, 2007 10:53 AM

"Get Accosted By The Anacostia"

Posted by: Marion S. | August 31, 2007 10:59 AM

Washington, D.C.: Listen, We're Really Sorry About All That Emo Music.

Posted by: Anon | August 31, 2007 11:00 AM

I think it's "The American Experience". I seem to remember seeing that on MPD arm patches.

Posted by: Crestwood Jim | August 31, 2007 11:07 AM

DC - If you're not part of the solution, there's plenty of money to be made in prolonging the problem.

Posted by: DuffyMoon | August 31, 2007 11:09 AM

The new Virginia slogan "live passionately" is not meant to replace "Virginia is for lovers." It is merely a "call to action," developed at a cost of $400,000.

Posted by: Mike Licht | August 31, 2007 11:10 AM

"Crack Pipes R On Us"

Posted by: MB | August 31, 2007 11:11 AM

"If You're Not Part of the Solution, You Probably Work For The DC Government."

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 11:21 AM

"We'll tow your heart away!"

Posted by: johng1 | August 31, 2007 11:27 AM

"If You Lived Here, You'd Still Be Stuck In Traffic."

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 11:33 AM

"Where education is noy only optional, it's discouraged"

"Where Bottom-Feeders Flourish"

Posted by: johng1 | August 31, 2007 11:34 AM

"What happens here will probably be reported on the front page of the newspapers in gory detail as quoted from a source requesting anonymity because he's not authorized to release the information he's releasing anyway so please don't tell his boss."

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 11:36 AM

"Only our criminals have guns"

Posted by: johng1 | August 31, 2007 11:37 AM

"DC: Where the Judges Sue YOU!"

Posted by: Stick | August 31, 2007 11:37 AM

"DC: Has anyone seen my pants?"

Posted by: DCBC | August 31, 2007 11:43 AM

"Come for the humidity, stay for the patronage."

"DC - At Least We're Not Baltimore"

"No Vote, No Commuter Tax, No Problem!"

"DC - So Good, The Rats Won't Leave!"

Posted by: bb | August 31, 2007 11:53 AM

DC: The American Experience

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2007 11:57 AM

Washington DC: Please stop sending us your politicians. We have plenty.

Washington DC: Get off the mall or we'll close all the roads leading to it

Washington DC: The paranoia's free!

Posted by: EricS | August 31, 2007 11:57 AM

"DC: It's a zoo, but it's OUR zoo."

Posted by: NMcGuire | August 31, 2007 11:58 AM

DC: The American Experience

Posted by: Philip Pannell | August 31, 2007 11:58 AM

Delusional City

Posted by: Koko | August 31, 2007 12:00 PM

DC: Dubya Slept Here But Gonzalez Doesn't Remember.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2007 12:02 PM

For the record, at that 1991 meeting Jann Darsie suggested changing Celebrate and Discover to Celebrate the City and I added Beyond the Monuments. Celebrate and Discover linked the name of the city with the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America. In our new motto, the celebration was for the bicentennial of the law establishing the District of Columbia. Both slogans referred to history, no one really cared.

Posted by: Mike Licht | August 31, 2007 12:08 PM

How about "Much more than monuments"?

Posted by: Vincent | August 31, 2007 12:15 PM

"Our village idiot is dummer than yours!"

Posted by: Paul | August 31, 2007 12:16 PM

Uhm, Paul, you might want to consult a dictionary...

"Dummer"?

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 1:05 PM

How about ... "Too Small To Be A State, Too Big To Be An Insane Asylum."

Posted by: Fred P. | August 31, 2007 1:29 PM

DC: Stop your car, the senator's third cousin's best friend's dog sitter is late for an appointment and his motorcade needs to run all the red lights!

Posted by: Falls Church Pat | August 31, 2007 1:31 PM

"If you're coming into OUR CITY, leave your damn car at home and 'TAKE METRO'"!

"Hell will freeze over before we EVER build any highways!"

"Commuters and non-residents are nothing but a nuisance and a cash cow".

"Shut up, pay your camera fines, and help us with our efforts to win statehood and a commuter tax"

"If you don't like it, STAY OUT of OUR city!"

"What's wrong with raising revenue?" - Tony Williams when asked if the speed cameras were implemented in the interest of safety or to raise revenue.

And my personal favorite, from Ellie herself:

"Keep the Barney Circle Connector funds (to the Feds). We don't want to do anything to make it easier for people to bring cars into our city."

Posted by: ceefer66 | August 31, 2007 1:57 PM

I remember one of the suggested slogans in the early 90's was DC: A District OF Colombia.

Posted by: Elvis | August 31, 2007 2:24 PM

"We've Got a Wide Stance"

...wait. That's Idaho.

DC "Can We Have Arlington Back?"

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | August 31, 2007 2:53 PM

I always thought the District's motto was "Sidewalk Closed, Please Use other Side." You certainly can't walk very far in the downtown area without seeing it.

Posted by: roac | August 31, 2007 2:54 PM

"DC: We Love Crack and So Should YOU!"

Posted by: Mayor Fenty | August 31, 2007 2:57 PM

"DC: The Home of Union Station, Where You Can Catch a Quick Train and a Fast BJ"

Posted by: Sen. Larry Craig | August 31, 2007 2:59 PM

DC: Safer than PG County.

Posted by: DC | August 31, 2007 3:06 PM

DC: Where parking comes with court fees.

Posted by: DC | August 31, 2007 3:08 PM

"DC: Safer than PG County."

Know why? DC's low-lifes have been forced into PG because of gentrification and they are trashing our county. PG is becoming DC's toilet.

Thanks to DC, we've become a crime magnet and our public hospital is broke now that DC has abandoned its poor and uninsured by closing DC General.

Nice town you've got there, pal.

If our county government had any cajones, they would send DC a bill and haul DC into court if it didn't pay.

Posted by: ceefer66 | August 31, 2007 3:38 PM

BPSCG: the misspelling was intentional, thought it would be funnier that way, but guess I was wrong

Posted by: Paul | August 31, 2007 4:01 PM

The late, great Art Buchwald suggested the best slogan many years ago, when DC was considering an earlier change:

"DC: SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE."

Posted by: Mem Reese | August 31, 2007 4:02 PM

It's so obvious:

"DC Rules"

Posted by: Esteban | August 31, 2007 4:07 PM

The Seat of Government: Sat on -- and Worse -- Since 1800

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2007 4:14 PM

We could steal the Principality of Liechtenstein's tourist slogan- "Come to us; not through us."

Posted by: Cleveland Park | August 31, 2007 5:19 PM

Sorry, Paul - my apologies.

Posted by: BPSCG | August 31, 2007 5:27 PM

DC: The greatest city without a 24-hour transit system.

PS - if you think DC's crime rate is lower than PG's in ANY category, you're obviously on the sauce.

Posted by: PG | August 31, 2007 5:32 PM

Come for the crack. Stay for more crack.

Posted by: Chris | August 31, 2007 6:35 PM

Washington DC. Now with 23% fewer murders!!

Posted by: Chris | August 31, 2007 6:36 PM

Two that convey the same cheery message:

More lawyers than could ever line the ocean's floor!

or

Hell's got nothing on us! (Lewis Black in the TV commercials!)

Posted by: Hank | September 1, 2007 1:07 AM

C'mon folks, state slogans are supposed to emphasize the positive.

Or at least the passable, e.g. Oklahoma's "Oklahoma is OK."

OK, got it?

Some years ago, when Maryland was worried about the lyrics of its state song (outdated? racist?), some gentle subversives at NPR wrote a new one, extolling the virtues of shopping malls and the like. (Disclosure: the subversive gang included a friend of mine.) So I'm thinking...

"Home of Ben's Chili Bowl"
or
"Former Home of Ristorante AV and Scholl's"
or
"Legendary Representation"
or
"Unbelievably Efficient"
or
"Where anti-Washington politicians desperately want to be"
or
"Pothole Paradise"
or
"Savor the Quiet between the Metrobuses"
or alternatively
"Savor the Stillness on the Metro escalators"

Posted by: Cumberland, Md | September 1, 2007 6:57 AM

Back in the '70s, Washingtonian Magazine had a contest. The winner was "Washington Is For Lawyers." Most of the above suggestions are hilarious; however, Marion Barry notwithstanding, I always loved "A Capital City."

Posted by: AZANNE | September 1, 2007 9:32 AM

Hey Marc, I have a question. Are federal government agencies (and the property they are located on) a part of DC or not? They use a Washington, DC address, but they are on exclusive property.

Posted by: Just Asking | September 1, 2007 9:00 PM

Washington, D.C.: "Northern Charm, Southern Efficiency"

Posted by: Your Mom | September 2, 2007 6:48 AM

DC: "Compared to Virginia, our traffic fines seam reasonable"

Posted by: DLB | September 2, 2007 10:21 PM

"Taxation without representation."

Posted by: RCaldwell | September 3, 2007 11:22 AM

Unless it was recently changed, the slogan is "Washington DC, the American Experience". It has red stripes made to resemble a flag waving. The words Washington DC appear in the upper left of the logo (where the field of stars would be on the US Flag) and the words "The American Experience" are written across the bottom. MPD made it into a shoulder patch and display it proudly on their uniform shirt and blouse.

Posted by: A Retired MPDC Cop | September 3, 2007 7:23 PM

DC: Our teachers our dummer that your teachers

Posted by: Ed | September 3, 2007 11:04 PM

Washington DC: All Fantasitics Start From.

Posted by: Touchsky | November 4, 2007 11:26 PM

I believe my slogan will win the award, can you let me know how to attend the activity?

Posted by: Touchsky | November 4, 2007 11:28 PM

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