Toronto’s new slogan – I’m not convinced

Unraveling a city’s DNA in under seven words will never be easy. But creating a brand identity that’s both accurate and remembered is even harder. The thing is – I’m really not convinced that the Group of Six have got it right…

Let me make one thing clear – I neither work nor live in Toronto. I have no immediate vested interest in the goings-on within the city. I haven’t got a handle on the local politics and so on. But I want to. On a two week holiday last year, thousands of miles away from my own front door, I felt as though I was home.

So I have got a vested interest, of sorts. I want the city to grow, to prosper, to keep adding to the jobs market so that there’s a niche I can get into.

Which is why I’m not convinced about the city’s new slogan, courtesy of the Toronto Star: Embracing the World.

Perhaps I’m missing something. Perhaps the slogan reflects the feelings, desires, aspirations, hopes, fears and dreams of the actual inhabitants – not just the wanna-be ones. Perhaps it embraces the street cars, the city-of-villages feel, the bohemian quarter, the financial district, the lake, the island, the crime, the unrest, the haves-and-have-nots, the hustle-and-bustle, the massive ethnic diversity, Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, the Rogers Centre, the ROM and the AGO.

Perhaps, because I’m an outsider who happened to fall in love with the place, it doesn’t quite ring clear and true for me.

The nub of the matter I suppose, is this: It doesn’t sound strong enough.

Not for a city where my heart sank to see a large group of kids clustered on a street corner, late at night, opposite where I was staying – only to lift again when I realised that they were rehearsing a small sketch for a youth club (I wasn’t in the best end of town so was primed for an environment more like England).

Not for a city where even the beggars wished me a good day when I didn’t have any change to give them.

Not for a city that has already embraced the world through immigration, which has created a vibrant city-of-villages feel.

Not for a city that was one of the friendliest, most welcoming places I’d ever been.

And not for a city where big business meets sandy beach less than a half hour street car ride away…

To embrace something, two things need to come together. One needs to move towards the other. And with this slogan – I’m not sure who is doing the moving. Is Toronto moving towards the rest of the world, or is the rest of the world moving towards Toronto?

The problem with ‘Embracing the World’ is that it feels a bit too safe, a bit too comfortable.

I’d have preferred to see something a little more edgy, little more purposeful I think. Something, in other words, which matched my brand image of Toronto from my short time there, and long hours reading about it through the local news.

Something that would tell new visitors and businesses what they could expect from the city, other than a great big hug. Which is all very well and good – but hugs don’t always shift product…

Choosing a slogan is hard. Very hard. So let’s see how this one settles – it will be interesting to watch…


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