Make me feel brand new
“City of Moose” has a nice ring
- By Rick Sinnott
“Branding” sounds like it should hurt. But it's supposed to be a good thing for something you want to market, like a city. Anchorage recently paid two consulting firms to create a brand for us - something clever; something that will make us proud, attract more visitors, bring Outside money in.
This latest effort cost $80,000. Maybe it'll be worth it. Maybe the experts will suggest a catchy slogan so obvious we'll wish we'd thought of it. One of the agencies, Stone Mantel, of Colorado Springs, created a nifty slogan for Ketchikan, which used to be called “Alaska's First City” because it sounded better than “Alaska's First City on the Tour Boat Circuit.” Now, thanks to Stone Mantel, Ketchikan's slogan is “Our lifestyle, your reward.” That would be very compelling for Reno or Las Vegas, but if you were on Jeopardy and the card flashed “Our lifestyle, your reward,” would you slap the buzzer and yell “What is Ketchikan”?
Anchorage already has a slogan or two. In 1982 the Chamber of Commerce decided to call Anchorage “The City of Lights.” Annual marketing campaigns and peer pressure encourage us to purchase strings of tiny white lights and drape them on trees and shrubs where they can snare moose. A former mayor decreed Anchorage “The City of Flowers” because of the city's hanging baskets and public gardens. I've even seen Anchorage described as “The City of Lights and Flowers.”
Guess what: Anchorage is not the only “City of Lights.” Ever hear of Paris, that city in France? Paris was known as “The City of Lights” when Anchorage was just moose habitat. We can't compete with that.
If you Google “City of Lights” you'll find about 690,000 hits. The list of cities that claim the name stretches from Paris to prosaic, Hong Kong to Karachi, Vancouver to Aurora, Illinois. The City of Lights festival in Wheeling, West Virginia attracts over a million visitors each year. Wheeling doesn't limit itself to strings of tiny white lights; it has over 60 Technicolor displays, recognized by the American Bus Association as “one of the Top 50 Internationally Known Events in North America.” The Annual Fantasy in Lights Parade features Rockettes-like dancers in skimpy Santa Claus costumes. We can't compete with that.
I assumed Perth, Australia was a Down Under wannabe trying to steal some glitter from Paris or Wheeling, but Perth has a far better claim to the “City of Lights” title than Anchorage. In 1962, when John Glenn was halfway to becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, Perth turned on their lights as he passed overhead. America's most righteous astronaut christened Perth “The City of Lights.” We can't compete with that.
My favorite City of Lights, hands down, is Mong La, the capital of Special Region Number Four, Burma. A website, obviously designed by someone from Stone Mantel, gushes that night-time Mong La “looks like a space shuttle that descended upon earth.” Less than two decades ago, Mong La was an unknown village in a sparsely populated area. Since the space shuttle landed, the city attracts 700 to 1,000 visitors a day. The website admits, rather too frankly, that some people call Mong La the Las Vegas of the East, while others call it the Anus of China. For some reason the basket of toiletries provided by a hotel there includes a condom. We can't compete with any of that.
Perhaps you think “Anchorage: City of Flowers” is a better slogan. My Google search found 73,000 hits for “City of Flowers.” Cities that use it are on every continent except Antarctica and a lot of tropical islands. Italy has laid claim to more cities of flowers than other countries, but the most notable justifications are farther north. The city website for Salisbury, England's “City of Flowers” hardly mentions nearby Stonehenge. Those flowers must really be something.
In the Middle Ages, Luther dubbed the residents of Erfurt, Germany “the gardeners of the Holy Roman Empire.” Erfurt has been known as the “City of Flowers” since the 19th century, before the first wall tent was erected along Ship Creek.
The Netherlands is renowned for its fields of colorful tulips. The fertile imaginations of Haarlem, the Netherlands' “City of Flowers,” created the Flowergirls, 12 Haarlem beauties on call to brighten up business meetings and receptions. Haarlem's annual flower parade is in late April. Do you know how difficult it is to find a flower in Anchorage in April?
Latin America has so many flowers that several cities have adopted additional, less shopworn slogans. Xalapa, Mexico, is also the “Jalapeapital of Mexico.” Cuenca, Ecuador, is also the “Athens of the Andes.” Aibonito, Puerto Rico, is also “The Cold City,” caused by its relatively high elevation. Anchorage could challenge Aibonito to a duel and call itself “The Cold City,” but that probably would discourage the tourists and antagonize Fairbanksans.
Asia and the Near East fairly blossom with places that claim to be “The City of Flowers,” such as Aboud, Palestine; Lahore, Pakistan; and Da Lat, Vietnam. At least two cities in the Philippines, Baguio and Zamboanga, are fighting for the title. Zamboanga seems to have the better claim. It was named “City of Flowers” when the Malays settled it in prehistoric times. The Spaniards, tourists with swords, also named Zamboanga the “City of Flowers,” in 1635. Who can compete with that?
Several other cities in North America claim the title “City of Flowers.” Seattle, for instance. Rochester, New York, calls itself “The Flower City.” Encinitas, California is the “Flower Capital of the World.”
The Mayor's office is on target here. Anchorage needs a new slogan.
We need a slogan that captures the essence of living in an Alaskan city. What's the main thing your relatives ask to see on their first visit to Anchorage?
Why can't we be the “City of Moose”?
It's not too late. I Googled “City of Moose.” No city has it yet.
But we should hurry. A lot of towns are named after moose: Moose Jaw, Moose Pass, Moose Lake, Moose River. They may not be cities yet, but if they call themselves “City of Moose” before we do, we'll just be Johnny-come-latelys again.
The strongest contender may be Moose, Wyoming. Our best hope is that “Moose: The City of Moose” may strike them as redundant.
It's not as if nobody else is thinking along these lines. In 2002, the Michigan legislature designated Newberry the “Moose Capital of Michigan.” Newberry has snowmobile races, even dog mushing. They have a moose mascot named Moe. They're trying to be us.
The official website for Newberry has moose plastered all over it. It boasts having “more moose sightings in Luce County than any other county in the State of Michigan.” But I didn't see any photos of moose in the “city” of Newberry, which had 2,686 residents in 2000.
Come on. We can take these upstarts before a moose wanders into their town.
As many as 1,000 moose call the Anchorage Bowl home in some winters. It's easier to see a moose in Anchorage than in Denali. The city even has a tap-dancing moose mascot, Seymour.
Unfortunately, the real moose of Anchorage are not dancing. As the city expands - as buildings, parking lots, and roads obliterate the remaining natural areas - moose are finding the city more and more difficult to make a living in. In a few decades, a lot fewer moose may share the city with us.
There's no time to lose.
Some of our fellow Alaskans like to remind us the best thing about living in Anchorage is it's less than an hour away from Alaska. But Anchorage is in Alaska. The moose prove it.
Anchorage: City of Moose. Eat the flowers, wear the lights.
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