What Toronto needs is a decent city slogan.
None of this “You belong here” stuff.
Who goes to a city because they belong there? Or, that “We’ve been expecting you” approach, with its slightly sinister overtones.
We need something cool, clever, catchy and convincing. Something that makes people want to visit, have fun, spend time and money in this city.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds.
When poor Anthony Bourdain asked a number of locals to suggest a slogan in an episode of The Layover devoted to Toronto, none of them could come up with an idea. The silence was deafening.
Which raises the question: What is there to say about Toronto?
Our motto — “Diversity our strength” — pretty well sums it up. Toronto is known for the fact it attracts people from every corner of the planet, and most of them are only too happy here to stay.
But let’s be clear, a slogan is not a motto. A motto is a pithy phrase that lays out an ideal, a set of principles or beliefs. A slogan is essentially a pitch, an ad, catchy, brief and memorable.
Aside from its diversity, this city’s claim to fame is its liveability — whatever that means. But tourists aren’t immigrants; they’re here for a visit, not a life.
Perhaps that’s why the usual slogans seem awkward, earnest and a bit too sincere. Nothing wrong with sincerity, of course, but that’s not why people travel to Toronto.
They want a place where there’s stuff to do and see. They want a city that’s interesting, fun and maybe even a little edgy. That’s why Las Vegas’ slogan, “What happens here, stays here” is so successful.
There’s no use pretending Toronto is Sin City, let alone Las Vegas. So what about something like, “Toronto, take a walk on the mild side?”
Okay, maybe not.
How about, “What happens here, happens elsewhere?”
The closest we come to edginess is Canada’s decision to legalize pot. Maybe we could turn that to our advantage. How about, “Toronto, we don’t walk on the grass, we smoke it?” Or maybe, “Toronto, the city that lights up your life,” or “Toronto, we inhale?”
Some might think this approach inappropriate for a family destination like Toronto. Perhaps something less risky, more positive and dynamic is in order. Something that promotes Toronto as a forward-looking city, friendly, progressive, and one that likes to laugh? So what about, “Toronto, the joke’s on us,” or, “Toronto, more fun than a blue bin of monkeys”?
Many visitors come to Canada to experience nature and wildlife. Toronto may not be Banff, but it still has plenty to offer.
With that in mind, here are a few we slogans might consider:
“Toronto, the city where raccoons roam free,” “Toronto, that’s not a dog, it’s a coyote!” “Toronto, from Lake Ontario to the Bay Street Canyon, habitat of the creatures of the province,” “Toronto, a chicken in every backyard and a raccoon in every garage,” “Toronto, we make way for skunks,” or “Toronto, where every day is Groundhog Day.”
And let’s not forget those hidden landscapes few tourists ever see: Toronto’s ravines.
So perhaps … “Toronto, a great place to come and get lost,” “Toronto, if you’re here you probably don’t know where you are,” “Toronto, what you see isn’t what you get.”
But Bourdain was right.
Ours is not a beautiful burg. In this case, perhaps honesty is the best policy.
How’s, “Toronto, we may not be pretty but we put on a good façade” or “Toronto, there’s more to the city than meets the eye?”
The truth is Toronto isn’t old enough to be beautiful and charming; we’re all about potential.
So how about, “Toronto, come back to the future,” “Toronto, where less has never been more,” or “Come for the history, stay for the future”?
And when all else fails, we could try niceness, i.e. “Toronto, we have everything — but you,” or “Toronto, all you need to bring is yourself.”