As you may have heard, New Hampshire now has a new official tourism slogan. Out with the generic “You’re going to love it here!” and in with the open-ended “Live free and…”
The new slogan is part of a branding effort, something that has been elusive in New Hampshire compared to its neighbors in the rolling farmlands to the west (cows and maple syrup), and the forested and rockbound coast to the east (lobsters and lighthouses). New Hampshire is arguably more diverse in terms of geography, activities and maybe even local culture than Vermont or Maine, and it’s been hard to pin down exactly what New Hampshire’s identity is.
As Peter Egleston of Smuttynose Brewing Company explained, “Made in New Hampshire” just doesn’t carry the same weight as “Made in Vermont” or “Made in Maine.” Egleston was talking about his hopes that people throughout the Granite State would adopt the since-retired Portsmouth Lager as a local standby, but that in fact people in Manchester don’t feel as connected to Portsmouth, as people in Brattleboro might feel toward Burlington, or those in Millinocket feel toward Portland. The Seacoast of New Hampshire is different from the mill cities of the Merrimack Valley or the small towns of the North Country in a way that the Green Mountains of southern Vermont and the Green Mountains of northern Vermont never will be. New Hampshire doesn’t bring up the singular imagery of Maine or Vermont, because the state’s simplify too diverse–and too close to other markets, like Boston–to have the same sense of unity, insularity, or whatever it is, as its neighbors.
So we have “Live free and…” and what? Well, as the slogan shows, it’s really “Live free and splash” or “Live free and hike” or “Live free and paddle”. It’s a slogan as open-ended and diverse as the Granite State, itself, yet it does a good job of summing up something special about New Hampshire at the same time. It’s taken a curmudgeonly (and I say that as a compliment) state motto too often co-opted by those who want to clear cut their land or avoid paying taxes, and turned it into something welcoming–that’s good branding.
And it got us thinking about branding the Queen City. Right now, Manchester’s economic development slogan is “Birthplace of Your American Dream.” That’s almost as generic as “You’re going to love it here!” and it follows the comparatively better “Where history invites opportunity.” But lately, even that seems to have been supplanted by “New Hampshire’s Business Capital.” What does that tell anyone about the city?