BERLIN — In an effort to spice up its cosmopolitan reputation and stress its trendiness, Germany’s capital has launched an image campaign centered around the English-phrased slogan “Be Berlin.”
The new motto — the city’s first official slogan since unification in 1990 — comes at the hefty price of $14.8 million. Several residents of the once-divided city that played a front-and-center role throughout much of the 20th century seemed doubtful it really fit.
“I don’t know if it would sell well,” said Bianca Knoblauch, an employee at a gift shop near Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, about potential “Be Berlin” merchandise. “Usually we sell things that make people laugh. ‘Be Berlin’ is not very funny.”
Some tourists, too, appeared unsure what the motto is trying to convey.
“I don’t want to be Berlin. I wanted to come here to see the galleries,” said Victoria Gilardi, a tourist from the U.S. “And why do they need a slogan anyway? It makes the place seem a little desperate.”
Nonetheless, the new motto was approved in a confidential meeting of a specially selected panel of 16 prominent residents of the city, including star architect Hans Kollhoff and Catherine Muehlemann, vice president of MTV Germany.
“Be Berlin” was selected out of the more than 300 slogans submitted for consideration in an open search for an official city slogan.
The campaign, managed by public relations group Berlin Partner, will officially begin on March 11 with a series of television and radio advertisements and billboards focused on winning over the city’s residents to the new slogan. After several months, the campaign will extend to the rest of Europe and other countries around the world.
The city is funding the campaign in hopes of enticing a greater number of tourists and investors to the German capital.
If the new motto does have a focus-group air, it is more felicitous than the accidental slogan Mayor Klaus Wowereit lent the city in an interview with Focus magazine in November 2003.
“We’re poor, but sexy,” Wowereit said at the time.
Nonetheless, the lack of an official city motto has not prevented steady growth in tourism to Berlin over the past five years. More than 7 million people visited Berlin in 2007.
The “Be Berlin” campaign is designed to create associations with the city’s lively present rather than the dark, if fascinating, role it played in the 20th century, said Carola Bluhm, head of the Left Party’s parliamentary group in the city council.
“It sums up what people discover once they get here,” Bluhm says. “Berlin is creative, exciting and open to the world.”
But, many tourists are still more interested in searching out the newly unveiled Holocaust memorial and the scattered remnants of the Berlin Wall than visiting the renowned philharmonic orchestra or the thriving gallery scene that has made use of the city’s inexpensive real estate.
“This is the city of history,” said Frank Yang, a tourist from China waiting on line to enter the Reichstag.