Story: City boosters and promoters

Page 4. City identities and branding

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By the 1990s most New Zealand cities were attempting to develop individual identities. Slogans and logos were common ways of doing this.

Early slogans and logos

Some New Zealand cities have had associated catchphrases for a long time. ‘Sunny Nelson’ was used from the mid-19th century. Nelson and Christchurch were described as ‘garden cities’ in 1901 and 1906 respectively, while other cities such as Palmerston North laid claim to this tag later in the century. Local councils also had coats of arms containing elements which symbolised the city, often including a Māori figure or emblem.

In most cases, ratepayer money was not spent on promotional activities until the latter part of the 20th century. However, some places (usually tourist destinations) opened public relations offices, which acted as marketing agencies, decades earlier, such as Auckland in 1947, and Hastings in 1954.

New branding

In the late 1980s a new type of marketing and branding of cities emerged, which included nationwide advertising campaigns, slogans and logos (often developed in conjunction with advertising agencies). This continued in the 2000s.

Hamilton – where slogans happen 

Hamilton has struggled to find a slogan resistant to mockery. For a while it was known as ‘Fountain City’ – wishful thinking rather than reality, as the city had few fountains. Next came ‘Hamilton – where it’s happening’, followed by ‘Hamilton – more than you expect’, which implied low expectations and damned with faint praise. Neither was embraced by the community, and the city council decided in 2004 to not have a slogan at all. However, ‘Hamiltron – city of the future’, an informal (and perhaps ironic) slogan devised by the youth of Hamilton, lives on. 

When deregulation of the economy led to changing economic fortunes in the 1980s and 1990s, cities had to come up with new ways to survive and grow. Slogans and logos were created, not only to give these places a unique identity and to promote them (particularly to tourists), but also to help locals feel good about their home town.

The capital city’s ‘Absolutely Positively Wellington’ slogan was launched by booster mayor Fran Wilde in 1992. Other cities and towns followed suit, though no other slogans were as successful and enduring. In fact, branding is a risky activity for councils. Slogans and logos are more often the subject of community ridicule than support.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'City boosters and promoters - City identities and branding', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/city-boosters-and-promoters/page-4 (accessed 25 September 2017)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 11 Mar 2010