Turning a slogan

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

By Chris Morrill

The $42,000 spent by the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau to have a Nashville marketing firm come up with a tourism plan could have been better spent on beer.

Let me explain.

First, the proposed city slogan: "Cape Girardeau: Where the City Turns a Thousand Tales." What, exactly, does that mean?

There are two problems with that slogan.

First, there's the use of the word "turns" in such an unusual fashion.

If you look up "turn" on www.dictionary.com, the version favored by the CVB comes up as No. 7b, only the 12th most popular definition. It reads a such: To give distinctive, artistic, or graceful form to: "They know precisely how to turn a dramatic line or phrase that is guaranteed to make the evening news" (William Safire).

I'm a college-educated and well-read person with a wide vocabulary, and I had never heard the phrase "turn a tale" before this slogan was unveiled. Never. If I've never heard it, I must assume that the average Joe and Jane Citizen probably hasn't either.

Second, when I hear "turning a tale." I immediately think of "turning tail" as in "turn tail and run." Could someone misinterpret this new slogan to mean Cape Girardeau is the City of Cowards? Do we need to launch an immediate advertising campaign to convince the nation that, despite our new cowardly slogan and very French city name we are not, indeed, populated primarily by the cowardly French?

The slogan isn't the only thing that leaves a bit to be desired. Along with the lame slogan, you have some of the other conclusions the study found, which any local yokel could have told you at far less expense:

People consider Cape Girardeau to be friendly, historic and conservative.

Rush Limbaugh's hometown conservative? You don't say! The "friendly" part is also true, so long as you're not trying to open a casino or a strip club or find a parking spot at Southeast Missouri State University.

The city's greatest assets are the river, the university and its residents.

Duh. Though many of us tend to think SEMO doesn't get called on the carpet quite enough for its boneheaded budgeting, it is the Big Dog in town.

That river thing is kind of hard to miss, too. I hear they're building a new bridge.

Pass-through visitors were unable to successfully find their way downtown from the interstate.

Heck. I thought it was always pretty easy to go east until I hit the river.

River cruise visitors enjoy walking around downtown, but are disappointed to find that attractions aren't open.

This is something that's been pointed out in the Missourian for years. Merchants who don't pay attention to cruise schedules will get what they deserve.

Only a small amount of visitors who went downtown knew they could go beyond the floodwall.

I thought that's what those gaps in the floodwall were for. Perhaps it's time for that retractable floodwall.

Researchers want Cape Girardeau to identify more strongly with the river and with related city history, including Civil War History and the Trail of Tears route Cherokee Indians were forced to take to western reservations.

Hello? Trail of Tears State Park? Cherokee Park? (Oh, sorry. There is no Cherokee Park anymore. My bad.) And if the politically correct crowd has its way, there will be no more Indians or Otahkians at SEMO, nor an Indian Park.

While the tourism folks advocate playing up our Indian history, others work against it. There's no irony in that at all, is there?

In a nutshell, all of these tourism ideas could have easily been solved for a lot less than $42,000. Instead, the city should have asked the Big Dog college to donate 10 of their very best marketing, public relations and advertising students and locked them in the Playdium for 12 hours with an open bar. (In case you're curious, $42,000 would buy about 4,204 cases of Stag.) The total cost would have been significantly less than what that CVB spent, the students could have gotten college credit, and there's no doubt we could've come up with a snazzier slogan.

It's not like we needed rocket scientists for this. We need to save those guys for more complicated tasks, like designing roundabouts.

Chris Morrill is a Scott City resident.

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