- There is nothing “amazing” about these Seoul city slogans
- And the verdict for the new Seoul city slogan is…
- Seoul’s not the only Korean city getting a new slogan…
- Would using professional native English speakers have made a difference?
I’ve spent over a year examining Korean city slogans. Most of them are horrible. They’re forced, nonsensical, or uninspired. I started my Sunday City Slogans posts with I SEOUL U, the city slogan for Seoul since 2015. While it has a few supporters, the consensus seems to be that it was a confusing and nonsensical city slogan.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d heard Seoul was considering a new city slogan. The current tourism slogan being promoted by BTS, My Soul Seoul, was a contender. In the last week of 2022, I found reports that Seoul was indeed going to select a new slogan. The city apparently held a contest and received over 2,000 submissions. Despite my interest in city slogans, I saw no announcement soliciting entries. I wonder where they solicited these submissions from.
The four finalists have been chosen, and people will be able to vote on them until January 31st.
The four finalists are:
- Seoul for you
- Amazing Seoul
- Seoul, my soul
- Make it happen, Seoul
There is nothing “amazing” about these Seoul city slogans
This is what happens when you hold a public contest to choose your city slogan rather than paying experts to come up with something. It’s how you end up a research vessel called Boaty McBoatface.
I applaud Seoul city’s efforts to include the public in the process. But they should have also solicited submissions from marketing professionals. They could’ve chosen two slogans from the pros and two from the public and then put them all to a public vote.
There are several things to consider when creating a slogan. Five suggested tips for creating a successful slogan are:
- Make it catchy
- Make it short & sweet
- Connect to an emotion
- Use it over and over and over again
- Be human
As these candidates are in the initial phase, #4 doesn’t apply. But let’s see how the proposed slogans stack up to the other criteria.
Seoul for you—Seoul with everything you need
Though short, it isn’t particularly catchy. It doesn’t connect to any emotion. It contains the pronoun “you,” somewhat humanizing it. But in its current state, its intended meaning isn’t clear—even with the “explanation.”
Amazing Seoul—Seoul the center of tradition, culture, and art with countless spaces for entertainment
Again, it’s short but not particularly catchy, with no human element. The adjective “amazing” is essentially meaningless and overused. Even the explanation doesn’t clearly express what is so amazing about Seoul. Lots of other cities could be considered the “center of tradition, culture, and art with countless spaces for entertainment.” None of that is unique to Seoul, nor is it amazing.
Seoul, my soul—Seoul fills my soul
This appears to be a variation of the “My soul Seoul” slogan being popularized by BTS. Short but not catchy. Using “my” humanizes it somewhat, which may give it a bit of an emotional connection. Trying to incorporate wordplay using both Seoul/soul just sounds silly.
Make it happen, Seoul—Seoul where anything can happen
Short and somewhat catchy but with no human connection. Furthermore, this feels like a directive. “Hey, Seoul, make it happen.” Swapping the comma for “in” might actually make this passable—Make it happen in Seoul. Or perhaps, Make it happen—Seoul.
And the verdict for the new Seoul city slogan is…
I’m not a fan of any of these new slogans. Furthermore, when you have to explain a slogan, you’ve already failed. The example slogans from the article referenced earlier don’t require explanations:
- Subway: Eat Fresh
- Goldfish: The Snack That Smiles Back
- Nike: Just Do It
- Maybelline: Maybe She’s Born With It
- McDonald’s: I’m Lovin’ It
- Florida: Sunshine State
- Virginia: Virginia Is For Lovers
- Las Vegas: What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas
- Norway: Powered by Nature
- Argentina: Beats to Your Rhythm
The intended messaging behind each of these slogans is clearly implied.
People can vote (regardless of location or nationality) for their favorite new Seoul city slogan here or here. I’ve already voted, though it felt like choosing the lesser of the four evils. Regardless, I encourage you all to vote as well.
Seoul’s not the only Korean city getting a new slogan…
One of the few Korean city slogans that I examined and actually liked was Dynamic Busan. However, a follower on LinkedIn messaged me to inform me that Busan is also in the process of selecting a new slogan. The three final candidates to replace Dynamic Busan are:
- Busan is Good
- Bridge for All, Busan
- True Place, Busan
These may be worse than the Seoul candidates. If you’ve read any of my posts on Korean city slogans, you’ll likely have deduced “Good” stands for something (Global, Original, Open, and Dynamic). Aside from including the previous slogan (Dynamic), there’s another problem here—Chungju beat you to it, Busan. And their second “O” also stands for “open”—not very “original.”
The second offering is missing the article “a” at the beginning. Without “a,” it sounds very awkward. If it were A Bridge for All, Busan, that might be my favorite.
True Place, Busan might work in Korean but not in English. While related, truth and sincerity aren’t exactly the same. Honestly, I have no idea what a “true place” is. It feels the same as this “real experience” I posted about last week.
Sadly, the chance to submit either offline or online feedback has passed (Jan. 10 seems to have been the cutoff). Busan consulted with “상상더하기+ 발족식,” which I’ve seen Romanized as Imagination Multiply X and Imagination Plus +. This appears to be a citizen group rather than a marketing/branding firm.
Again, I’m not a fan of any of Busan’s new slogans, but if I had to choose, I’d go with “A Bridge for All, Busan.”. The citizen’s group sees Busan as a future-oriented, lively, leisurely, global city. If I had the time, I’m sure I could come up with something better.
Would using professional native English speakers have made a difference?
Though I’m not an expert, I’ve been studying language for more than a quarter of a century and marketing for the past two years. I’m also a native English speaker.
I spent 15 minutes brainstorming some alternatives for Seoul. It was a bit tough not knowing what image Seoul city would like to project. That’s a major part of the problem with soliciting submissions from the public. I gave it a whirl and tried to follow the advice from the previously mentioned article. Here’s what I came up with.
- Good times roll in Seoul
- Seoul, simply satisfying
- We’ve got Seoul
- ❤️ & Seoul
- Find your Seoul-mate
- Mind. Body. Seoul.
- Inspire your Seoul
- Recharge your Seoul
- Good for your Seoul
- See you in Seoul
- Seoul spirit
- Satisfy your Seoul
- Simply special, Seoul
- Follow your Seoul
- The spirit of Seoul
- Food for your Seoul
- Seoul’s got it all
- Seoul Passion
- The passion of Seoul
- Simply superb, Seoul
- Your Seoul solution
- From our Seoul to yours
- Do it with Seoul
- Feed your Seoul
- Dip your brush in your own Seoul
- Roll in Seoul
- Roll with Seoul
- Balance your Seoul
- Good for your Seoul
- Food for hungry Seouls
- Heart and Seoul
- Stir your Seoul
- Nourish your Seoul
- Stimulate your Seoul
- Discover your true Seoul
- 10 Million Souls in Seoul
- Enlighten your Seoul
- Awaken your Seoul
- It was meant to be—Seoul-mates
- The window to your Seoul
Not sure there are any winners in that list. There are definitely some stinkers, but that’s the point of brainstorming. I’m sure a group of professional marketers could refine a few ideas from this list to come up with some strong candidates. I’m sure I could refine some of these if I had more than 15 minutes.
What do you think? Can you find four suggestions from my list that are better than the four finalists? Let me know in the comments which ones you really like—or suggest you own! And don’t forget to vote here or here.
3 thoughts on “I SEOUL U is no more. The new Seoul city slogan is…”
I happened upon an ad for this vote earlier, and I was pretty unimpressed by these slogans too… The only two that actually sounded decent were “Seoul My Soul” and “Amazing Seoul”, they sounded the most catchy to me (though the latter feels a bit generic). I think the best way to approach a slogan for Seoul, especially one that will be understood by English-speakers, is to use a slogan that embraces the very obvious and widely recognized homophony of “Seoul” with “soul” (as in “Seoul My Soul”, but that still feels a bit off somehow).
My idea would be something like “Seoul Alive”, it not only invokes the homophone, but it conveys the dynamism and richness that the city ought to be known for
Thanks for sharing, dokevie.
I agree Seoul My Soul and Amazing Seoul are somewhat catchy. But they fall flat. While we all know what “amazing” means, it’s essentially a word devoid of meaning. A more descriptive adjective like stunning, unique, unparalleled, or enticing would carry more weight.
The difficulty with using the Seoul/soul homophony is that using both sounds awkward/cheesy. It’s like, “She packed her pack.” You’d likely rewrite that as, “She packed her bag/knapsack/rucksack,” to avoid repeating “pack.” And only using only one of them doesn’t guarantee the double entendre will land.
Seoul Alive is certainly no worse than the four finalists, but I don’t know if I’d make the connection between Seoul and soul there.
While I agree it would represent the dynamic nature of Seoul, I think first, a decision on what aspect of Seoul to promote needs to be made. Without that direction, it’s tough to drill down on an effective slogan—the canvas is simply too wide.