Not just a phrase

Richard Walls
Richard Walls
Who are we? What are we? We're about to find out. Nigel Benson reports.

Well , that couldn't have gone any better if it was planned, really.

Ever since the Otago Daily Times broke the news that the Dunedin City Council is looking for a new promotional strategy, the pretty city has become something of a cause celebre in cyberspace.

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on what makes our city special.

Or not so special.

Suggested slogans have ranged from "Dunedin - Palmerston North with a harbour", "Dunedin - You've missed the bypass", "Dunedin - The gateway to Milton" and "Dunedin - God's waiting room", to "Dunedin - Not the end of the world (but you can see it from here)".

City branding has long been a funny business.

Jennifer Hooker
Jennifer Hooker
"Stop and taste Te Puke" had overseas tourists reaching for their New Zillin pronunciation guides.

Timaru thought it was on a winner with "Feel, touch, taste".

That was, until a disrespectful few started adding "lick" to the slogan on billboards.

So Timaru changed its slogan to "Feel the heartbeat", which is probably more appropriate for a town with an ageing population where CPR skills are desirable.

Hamilton used "More than you'd expect" for many years, which doesn't exactly make you want to book plane tickets, while Rolleston has branded itself "The Town of the Future", although the future has yet to recognise this.

Meanwhile, Tuatapere proudly declared itself "New Zealand's Sausage Capital", Kerikeri went kitsch with "It's So Nice They Named It Twice" and Matamata got all Kath and Kim with "You matter in Matamata".

It would be fair to say that Dunedin also does not have the best track record when it comes to slogans.

Dr Andrea Insch
Dr Andrea Insch
"That's the Spirit of Dunedin" could have been underwritten by Wilson Distillers, while the insipid "Dunedin - It's All Right Here" created confusion and criticism, but little cachet.

It's all right here? Shouldn't we be telling people it's great here?And only Dunedin could have come up with the mortifyingly embarrassing "It's All White Here" campaign for the visiting West Indian cricket team's test match in 2008.

And then affect hurt bewilderment when the rest of the country laughed at us.

"No-one on the committee who helped to come up with the idea considered any racial implications," Dunedin City Council spokeswoman Debra Simes said.


The recent University of Otago "Get over it" recruitment campaign also made locals cringe.

Get over what, exactly?


Dunedin was the first New Zealand city to develop a comprehensive branding strategy.

"Dunedin - It's All Right Here" was launched in 1988 and lasted until the mid-1990s.

DCC councillor and former mayor Richard Walls is the only person still on council who was involved with the original 1988 strategy.

"Our first positioning statement of any merit was `Dunedin - It's All Right Here'.

What that set out to do, supported with its great photographic images and copy, was say that you could find many, many things in one place - physical, cultural, educational, heritage, etc - that no other city in the world of our size could match.

"And it delivered brilliantly. For example, from being a scratch on the map for tourism, we leapt to the top of second-tier destinations in under three years.

Now we are in the top eight in New Zealand.

"Unfortunately, insufficient funding to maintain the campaigns that evolved lost the message and later tampering sunk it.

"Wellington made certain that did not happen with `Absolutely, Positively', which came from the same creative stable as `All Right', and it has served that city and region well.