Rebranding Effort: Is Buffalo for Real?

By Mark Skoultchi

June 14, 2011

In an effort to “rebrand” the city, The Buffalo Niagara Visitor’s Bureau recently announced the adoption of a new tagline: Buffalo: For Real.  According to Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, the president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, the new slogan articulates the unique attributes of the city, including the authentic experiences of American history, architecture and culture.

Not so sure it clearly articulates the unique attributes of the city, Dottie, but I agree it implies a certain type of authenticity, cultural or otherwise.

I actually spent three years in Buffalo while in graduate school, and I quite like the city.  Decent restaurants, good music scene, and that Albright Knox art gallery is a fine place to spend an afternoon. So I know the city has more to offer than snow, strong winds, and football.

However, I’m not wild about the new slogan.  I think it’s far too casual for a city looking to attract visitors based on history, architecture and culture.  There’s a disconnect for me.  History, architecture and culture are academic interests.  “For real” is colloquial, and oftentimes used to express faux seriousness.  Would a city tour guide, talking about the Ansley Wilcox Mansion at 641 Delaware Avenue, answer the question “Was Teddy Roosevelt really sworn into office in this home?” with “Oh yeah, for real.”?

Of course other cities have adopted more casual, even absurd slogans, but in most cases they’re tongue in cheek, and purposefully silly.  To wit:

Cleveland Rocks!  (Cleveland, OH)
Keep Austin Weird. (Austin, TX)
The Aliens Aren’t the Only Reason to Visit. (Roswell, NM)
The Town Without a Frown. (Happy, TX)
Where the Bald Eagle Soars and the Carp Drops! (Praire du Chien, WI)
Get ‘Er Done. (Havre, MT)
Town Without a Toothache. (Hereford, TX).
Houston’s Hot! (Houston, TX)
Where the Trout Leap in the Main Street. (Saratoga, WY)
Wichita: We Got the Goods. (Wichita, KS)

And my personal favorite:

Philadelphia Isn’t As Bad as Philadelphians Say. (Philadelphia, PA)

As a slogan, Buffalo: For Real attempts to be both serious and causal at the same time.  It’s suggesting that we take the city more seriously, but it’s almost ditzy in tone.  Furthermore, it’s unclear whether visitors will make the connection between the expression and the city’s emphasis on authentic experiences.  I appreciate the word play, but I wonder if the slogan will hit people as vague.  What’s for real??

Why not just:

Buffalo: It’s Authentic.

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