Winning the Motto

Slogans, taglines, and mottos provide instant recognition for a company or product. They stick in your mind like a fond memory of a momentous occasion and thus the brand keeps going… and going… and going. A profound tagline can provoke emotion that can reach out and touch someone. For an organization to enable this type of nostalgic, long-lasting value is simply g-r-r-r-eat!

Differentiating slogans, taglines, and mottos by definition will contrast between marketing professionals. The terms are often synonymous. In my experience, a tagline is a variant of a branding slogan used in marketing and advertising. It’s used for the life of a brand. The greatest tagline of all time is Nike’s “Just Do It.”

A slogan is more of a campaign spearhead and often specific to a product or service. Some marketers refer to slogans as product taglines, as opposed to company taglines. An example of a slogan is Kellogg Rice Krispie’s “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”

A motto or “saying” is more of a philosophical, political, or religious guideline, expressing an ideal. Google’s original motto was “Don’t be evil.”

As an ad creative, the process I use for creating these phrases is a bit unorthodox. With everything, I start with learning. I study the brand’s promise and seek perspective from the customers and employees. Through this research, I collect keywords that I hear and think of. I then reference my hard-back thesaurus, the one dinosaur that survived extinction. I add synonyms and end with a thorough compilation of keywords. I read these words over and over and assign a certain feeling to the collection. That feeling is difficult to describe as it derives from a transformation of mind. After I capture the feeling, I start writing. I note metaphors, short stories, idioms, phrases, anything and everything I believe is clever or meaningful. The good stuff filters up when you start having fun. Your mind jumps from serious to mysterious to silliness and suddenly you discover buried treasure. It can happen in minutes or months.

Reno’s slogan is The Biggest Little City in the World. It adorns the City logo and the world famous Reno Arch. As the story goes, in 1929 G. A. Burns of Sacramento suggested the moniker in a contest. Although a 1910 postcard for Reno wore the tagline The Biggest Little City on the Map. This slogan was mentioned several times in the comments of my first blog entry (the starting line) and motivated this post.

The Biggest Little City in the World was quite fitting for a 1920-1940’s Reno. The town was small and blooming, a must stop to get to California. Gold, gaming, and divorce, everyone knew about Reno. Through the decades, we’ve grown into the slogan even more. For me, the misconception about Reno and the slogan is that we’re an underdog, the David. That’s always seemed strange to me. Reno isn’t a small dog in a big fight, but rather a small dog with access to the fight with big dogs. In business, we’re small when transacting locally, but our talent is comparable when competing in other markets. Wolf Pack football is a small program with talent and the opportunity to play Oregon or Nebraska. Reno’s leaders, artists, and athletes can stand on any stage. Talent and opportunity aren’t secluded to big markets. The greatest innovations come from small towns. The talent and effort level of Reno’s people are equal to that of any city in the World. To me, a present day Reno as the Biggest Little City in the World means big talent and opportunity for a small city.

Recently the Reno Gazette Journal ran a poll about the slogan resulting in a majority of participants in favor of it. What do you think about The Biggest Little City in the World slogan? What does it mean to you?

Reno arch at night NOTE: The thoughts and opinions expressed by Paul Klein in this blog are personal and not that of the City of Reno.


3 thoughts on “Winning the Motto

  1. I don’t think of “The Biggest Little City in the World” as a slogan for Reno, but rather a nickname. Think “The Big Apple”, “Jet City”, etc. What’s different is that while those other names are just colloquialisms, Reno’s got its nickname emblazoned on a neon arch in the middle of town. Nicknames are special because they have a timeless quality, and they convey a sense of affection. We should embrace the nickname, and strive to live up to it, for what it conveys is that this small city has the kind of stuff going on that you would find in a city many times larger. “The Biggest Little City” doesn’t convey “… and Tahoe is just a short drive away!” It conveys “this is a place you really have to see and experience” Really, the product is the brand here. We have something great to work with in that regard – but it needs work, and that work needs to be done in order for any branding exercise to truly have meaning.

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