Legendary comedian George Carlin once mused, “Somewhere between ‘Live Free or Die’ and ‘Famous Potatoes,’ the truth lies.”
In considering these two state slogans, Carlin made a keen observation about how states market themselves. Whether it be controversial or cute, a state slogan can stick in the mind and give that state an identity. Here in Massachusetts, we lay claim to some of the oldest and most august intellectual centers in the world and also some of the most progressive and pioneering thinkers.
And yet our latest efforts at Bay State branding have resulted in “The Spirit of Massachusetts is the Spirit of America” (which has even been parodied on “Family Guy,” a show that is based in the “Ocean State” of Rhode Island), the confusing come-on “Massachusetts ... Make It Yours “ (for which we paid a branding company $300,000), and the vague (and technically untrue) “It’s All Here.”
Though the state slogan may not have the gravitas of the flag (many of which have their own mottos) or even the state bird, flower or doughnut (Boston Creme, baby!), and may be little more than advertisements that fit on license plates (see Florida, which now boasts “MyFlorida.com” on its automotive identifiers, laying bare the true purpose of a slogan), the folks at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT) have seen fit to encourage the citizens of our fair Commonwealth to give it another go.
In fact, they have established a dedicated website at which people can suggest new slogans. “So far, we have had 2,950 page views and 410 entries so far,” says MOTT Executive Director Rich Doucette of the public campaign that was started just a few weeks ago. When asked how this poll came about, Doucette explains that was “pretty innocent.”
"I was interviewing for a story about me and what I hope to do here,” he recalls, “and I mentioned that I think we could do better than ‘It’s All Here.’” Not only did he want his adopted home state to do better; Doucette suggested that the Bay State “deserves better.”
“Something that embodies Massachusetts a little more,” he clarifies when asked what he is hoping to find. “If you think of all the iconic people, places, events and everything else,” he says of the Commonwealth. “it’s kind of a special place!” From “One if by land … ” to “Deflategate,” Massachusetts has sparked some of the most well-known phrases in history.
And yet, Doucette maintains, our official phrase does not hold up as well. “Wouldn’t be nice if we had something like ‘I Love New York’ or ‘The Show-Me State,’” he asks, noting that, when people mention these slogans, everyone knows which states they are talking about.
As so many people are busy with summer plans, Doucette intends to keep the site up through the fall, at which point decisions will be made. “I do not know if there will be a change,” he admits, “but there will at least be something modified … We may even combine a few ideas!”
Regardless of the outcome, Doucette and many of those who have suggested slogans say it has been fun to think about their state and to try to make a statement. “People choose to come here for a reason,” Doucette observes. “We’ve got everything we need!”