The problem is, of course, that not all slogans cut into popular culture as well as Las Vegas’s managed to do. For every “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” half a dozen others hit with a rather loud thud. Seems that it’s harder than you think to come up with clever, clear, sensible slogans that also connect to a city’s core identity.

Don McEachern, CEO of North Star Destination Strategies, a company that contracts with cities to conduct identity campaigns, says municipalities large and small struggle to find effective ways to market themselves, because a message that attracts tourists might not be the best way to attract new residents, which, in turn, might not be the best way to lure business.

“Cities are complex in that they often have to serve a number of masters,” McEachern says. “There’s economic development wanting companies to set up shop; the tourism and convention people wanting to book hotel rooms; and the mayor, who wants to put his own stamp on the city. But it’s marketing, not a popularity contest. You have to create something, knowing that not everyone will applaud. That’s why most of [the campaigns] aren’t very good or very effective. Or, they’re outdated.”

When tiny Wenatchee, Washington, began losing its apple orchards, the city dumped “Apple Capital of the World” for “Wenatchee. Meeting Rivers. Meeting Friends. Meeting Needs.” One perturbed resident complained in a local newspaper survey that it sounded “more like an outreach program than a city.”

“You want something indicative of who you are, not what someone else is,” Swartz says. “The worst, ineffective slogans play off common themes. Effective ones have depth and dimension. The Las Vegas slogan is good because it has double meaning and a sense of irony. It’s funny. It has edge, an attitude. An appealing slogan tells a story while promising an experience that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.”

Swartz praises Gulfport, Mississippi’s “Where Your Ship Comes In” because it says exactly what the city is known for. He also likes Havre, Montana’s “Get ’Er Done” for its use of vernacular and its expression of a unified work ethic. Omaha, Nebraska’s former slogan, “Rare. Well Done,” which paid homage to the city’s meatpacking industry, was another of his favorites.

Swartz says ho-hum slogans are the ones that make you ask “and?” He points to Louisville, Kentucky’s “We’ve Got It” (got what?); Lyons, Kansas’s “The Unexpected Pleasure” (which is?); and Wichita, Kansas’s “We Got the Goods” (and which goods would that be?).

Slogans can also help boost civic pride by teaching residents history lessons or reminding them about the great things that lie in their own backyard. Some slogans express the frustrations of a city that has long been underappreciated or feels compelled to divert attention from a single identifier, such as Roswell, New Mexico’s slogan, “The Aliens Aren’t the Only Reason to Visit.”

There are fun ones (Montreal, Quebec’s “The More You Kiss, the Frencher It Gets”), cute ones (Walla Walla, Washington’s “The Town So Nice They Named It Twice”), and clever ones (Euless, Texas’s “Simply FabEuless”).

Another pet peeve of Swartz’s is when cities want to be known as the “capital” of something. Salem, Oregon, is “The Cherry City,” and Castroville, California, is the “Artichoke Center of the World.” Sumner, Washington, is “Rhubarb Pie Capital of the World,” while Knik, Alaska, claims to be “The Dog Mushing Center of the World.” Colville, Washington, couldn’t claim its honor globally, so instead it went with “The Wild Turkey Capital of the Pacific Northwest.”

Hereford, Texas, stakes a claim of a different, more hygienic sort. Its “Town Without a Toothache” slogan touts the city’s low rate of dental decay, which is attributed to natural fluorides in the water. Some cities find that their slogans outlive their usefulness, which explains why St. Louis, Missouri, dumped “There’s More Than Meets the Arch” for “St. Lou Is All Within Reach.” The switch was part of a $600,000 campaign to unify a metro area that often finds the city and county at odds with each other.

Others give up on the slogan idea entirely. Houston, Texas, for example, discarded a number of slogans — “Houston Proud” was too ho-hum; “Houston Hot” emphasized the city’s uncomfortable humidity; and the play off its Space Center component, “Space City: A Space of Infinite Possibilities,” didn’t fl y, either — before city officials coughed up $3 million for the “My Houston” media campaign, which features celebrity natives like Beyoncé Knowles and former President George H. W. Bush delivering earnest testimonials of how great the city is.

Fortunate cities like Las Vegas may never have to worry about running out of aspects to play off of. In 2007, tourism officials there added to its “What Happens Here, Stays Here” line another zinger that manages to remain true to the city’s racy roots: “Your Vegas Is Showing.” It’s just what Swartz likes in a slogan: It’s succinct. It’s edgy. And, in this case, it’s undeniably Vegas.