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Backstory: Baltimore - 'Home of 1,000 slogans'

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Chief enthusiast is Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum, and local head of the project known as Baltimore's "Destination Repositioning."

By this spring, he says, Landor Associates, the brand strategists and design consultants who got the contract, will unveil their "basic distillation of our advantages."

Why? So we can lure more people here to enjoy them, and pay us for the pleasure of doing so.

Sound crassly commercial? Maybe, but the competition for the last tourist standing is intense. We must accentuate our differences from Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston, says Clarence Bishop, chief of staff to Martin O'Malley, mayor of the city of Baltimore and world famous rock star. (Well, world famous in Baltimore.)

The Landor people, no doubt, were selected because of their many achievements. They have designed brands for places as diverse as Hong Kong ("Asia's World City"), the State of Florida (The letters FLA over USA.), and, in the Persian Gulf, "Brand Oman." This suggests how chic branding has become. From New Zealand to New Jersey, the urge to brand one's self, country, or corporation is manifest. Poland got a new national logo to draw attention to itself: a kite. Philadelphia, "The City of Brotherly Love," is now "The City That Loves You Back."

"I believe in branding in a big way," said Susan Palombo, of Landor. Their product, or "distillation," she said, "will have a visual expression, color, a logo, banners."

A song? "Music's not part of it ." Drat! "But it will have a tag line."Tag line? "A layman's term for slogan."

In November, Ms. Palombo told the City Council that the perception of Baltimore is "very bad," especially among people who've never been here. This was no surprise, considering Baltimore's alarming murder rate, which the mayor has been struggling to bring down.

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