I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with a tourism colleague describing my town. I may have learned more than he did.

When we talked about the local tourism assets, I found myself starting with our old standbys: the natural resource assets from nearby areas, things like the state parks, sand dunes, caverns and lake. These are the things I remember visiting when I was growing up. It goes back further than that. When I was an antiques dealer, I came across some really old tourism brochures for our town. Guess what they talked about? That’s right; these same things I just listed.

Then I realized our town has really changed in the past 10 years.

I bring this up because Stephen Koranda was telling me a bit about his work on marketing my small town. (Just over lunch. I’m not on the committee or anything like that.)

Part of his job includes a slogan. You and I both know the slogan is really the least important thing in marketing a small town, but we also know that committees that are in charge of such things obsess over slogans.

Stephen showed me a draft slogan he’s thinking about. It was definitely not something I’d have come up with for my town. Then I thought about it. And he was right. This town isn’t like the town I knew decades ago. I forgot to notice how much it has changed.

It’s not just me thinking in the past. Stephen is facing that same challenge with everyone on the committee and really with everyone in the whole town. Everyone is thinking of what the town used to be like.

That’s when the weird idea came to me.

What if the slogan wasn’t just a way to describe your town to people from the outside? What if it was a tool for changing how locals think about your town?

People don’t realize how much the town has changed. They’ll push back against or oppose a slogan that reflects too much of the new. But maybe it’s actually a tool to help them see the differences.

We can’t market the town on what it used to be. What can’t market the town based on what it might become in 10 years. We have to reflect honestly what the town is right now. The right slogan might serve to launch discussions of exactly what the town is now.

A slogan that talks about adventures of the heart and mind may not sound like the town locals think they know, but it may sound like an invitation to discover the town as it really exists today.

What do you think? Can we deliberately start conversations to change how people think?


Becky McCray

Becky McCray writes about small business and rural issues, based on her own successes and failures. She and her husband own a small town retail liquor store and cattle ranch.  Learn more at her website.