Houston's Biggest Blunders: Identity Crisis

The most appropriate and interesting slogan in the bunch.
The most appropriate and interesting slogan in the bunch.

Houston is a wonderful place, but we have made more than our share of mistakes over the years. From traffic to tear downs, sprawl to self promotion, we have found ourselves cleaning up the messes of former Houstonians for decades. We hope this series will help illuminate some of the issues and maybe even spur us on to find some solutions.

"I Heart NY"

"What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas"

"Cleveland rocks!"

These are slogans anyone can get behind. They are clever. They are simple. They elicit an instant response. Most importantly, it is impossible not to associate the city with the concept once they have been linked. That's what good branding does after all.

Bad branding, on the other hand, well, that's what Houston does.

"Who says the sky's the limit?"

"You'll think the world of this city."

"Space City: A Space of Infinite Possibilities."

"The Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt."

All of these were, at one time or another, what organizations, public and private, tried to pass off as tag lines for Houston. And, no, it wasn't a joke, though "this isn't a joke" could be as good a choice as the above.

For a city that has created as much innovation as we have, it is remarkable how awful our attempts at branding ourselves have been. It is partly owed to the fact that we don't exactly have immediately marketable qualities when it comes to attracting tourists or new residents. "The Energy Capital of the World" might be appealing if you want to find a place to hold the Oil and Technology Conference, but it isn't terribly enticing for anyone else.

It's an interesting problem considering we have decent nicknames -- Space City, Bayou City, H-Town. Granted, they aren't The Big Easy, Motor City or LA, but it could be worse (I'm looking at you, "Hogtown," aka Gainsville). Of course, nicknames tend to be organic. They are born rather than manufactured, which means when you do come up with a slogan, it better feel like a perfect fit. Unfortunately for Houston, "Houston's Hot" and "Expect the Unexpected" are as cheesy as they are awkward, and they represent some of the better options.   The most recent option we've seen is "Houston: The City with No Limits," which was trotted out by the Greater Houston Partnership last summer along with this video.

Yeah, no limits, as in we are so enormous, you'll spend at least a day just getting from Conroe to Clear Lake in the God awful traffic.

The most beloved had to have been "Houston: It's Worth It." Created by a small marketing company a decade ago, it became a kind of monument to our self deprecation, a nod to all the things that suck about living here that we accept -- the heat, the mosquitoes, the lack of mountains. In many ways, it was a perfect identity for a city that has struggled to find one for decades, sometimes to a rather neurotic degree.

But, like so many things (and slogans), it didn't stick and we're back to calling ourselves a city with no limits, whatever the hell that means. The good news is that will be gone too in a couple years. The bad news is God only knows what will replace it.

Previous Entries on the Houston's Biggest Blunders list:

Houston's Biggest Blunders: Mass Transit


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