Wayne Risher, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tourism boosters believe 23 years is long enough for a marketing slogan, but they didn’t want to totally abandon a winning formula focused on Memphis’ iconic music.
They unveiled a new slogan Thursday that adds a dash of soul to a 1995 tagline that has more than stood the test of time.
The new slogan, “Memphis: Home of Blues, Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll,” replaces “Memphis: Home of the Blues, Birthplace of Rock ‘N’ Roll.”
The agency that promotes Memphis’ $3.3 billion-a-year tourism industry also got a new name, for the first time in 95 years.
Memphis Tourism is the new name for the agency formerly known as the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, founded in 1923.
The new brands of Memphis tourism were unveiled at the New Daisy Theatre in a star-studded annual meeting of hoteliers, attraction operators, restaurateurs and others who form the backbone of the local industry.
Rapper Al Kapone co-hosted a talk show-formatted meeting with Memphis Tourism president Kevin Kane.
New University of Memphis Tigers basketball coach Penny Hardaway brought the crowd to its feet. He was presented a “Spirit of Memphis” award, whose previous recipients have included such notables as Sam Phillips, Larry Finch, B.B. King and Elvis Presley.
Grammy-winning artist and Royal Studio owner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell kept the Memphis vibe rocking, and John Paul Keith brought the rockabilly.
The new tourism campaign tagline is the latest in a succession of catchphrases that have represented Memphis to the world since 1980, when the Memphis Jobs Conference led to a concerted push to grow tourism.
Previous slogans included “Start Something Great in Memphis,” dating to the tenure of Kane’s predecessor, Marshall Murdaugh, who famously coined “Virginia is for Lovers,” and branded New York as the Big Apple.
“Start Something Great” gave way to “Give Me Memphis,” based on a lyrical line purchased from Chuck Berry (“Memphis, Tennessee”), for $10,000.
Neither lasted nearly as long as the just-replaced civic motto.
It literally stared visitors in the face when they entered Memphis on the Hernando DeSoto (Interstate 40) Bridge. It was displayed at the top of industrial silos on the riverfront. The silos and sign came down during conversion of the Pyramid Arena to Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.
Kane said “soulful” was the word most often used to describe Memphis, by likely visitors surveyed by tourism officials last year.
Graphically, where the former logo had a vertical guitar forming the “I” in Memphis, the replacement has a guitar body sweeping horizontally across the body of text.
The tourism agency said the change embraces soul music that rose to national prominence from Stax and Royal recording studios.
Kane said officials hope the marketing and advertising efforts using the new images will help build on the city’s 11.7 million visitors last year, a nearly half million increase from 2016.
Noting that Memphis music is the No. 1 attraction that draws out-of-town visitors, Kane declared, “We’re getting on the soul train.”
Added Kapone, “You know I’ve been about rocking with the soul train all my life.”