By PAMELA WOOD
The Capital of Annapolis
BAY RIDGE, Md. (AP) — When Mary Tod Winchester was a young mom looking to do volunteer work, she was drawn in by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s blue-and-white “Save the Bay” bumper stickers.
Forty years later, she’s a CBF vice president who is just as committed to the short, snappy motto that has inspired generations of environmentalists.
“It’s so simple and effectively says what we’re doing in three short words,” Winchester said. “You immediately get it.”
The foundation’s early leaders coined the “Save the Bay” motto in the 1960s as a rallying cry for the movement to restore the health of the Chesapeake.
And the foundation is still printing those blue-and-white stickers.
The bay foundation had its roots in 1964, when a group of men from Baltimore met with then-U.S. Rep. Rogers C.B. Morton, asking for help on the bay, which they thought was quickly deteriorating.
Morton charged them with creating a private organization to champion the bay. By 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was born.
Winchester pinpoints the date of the creation of “Save the Bay” as 1969.
“They really needed some kind of rallying cry, something people would connect with,” said Winchester, who became involved with the foundation just a couple of years later in 1971, when the group was still based in downtown Annapolis.
The founders printed up the first batch of “Save the Bay” bumper stickers and sold them to raise money for the cause. The
stickers were immediately popular.
“People really resonated with it,” Winchester said. The motto stuck.
“When you hit on a really good motto, people connect with it,” she said. “That’s what you want.”
Though she started as a volunteer, Winchester soon became secretary to the foundation’s first executive director, the late Arthur Sherwood. She worked closely with many of the other early founders, too, though many have since died.
“CBF’s forefathers were pretty smart,” she said.
The “Save the Bay” motto has a lot going for it, according to Rebecca Hamilton, an associate professor of marketing at the
University of Maryland’s R.H. Smith School of Business.
It’s broad enough to appeal to all types of people interested in the Chesapeake Bay: power boaters, sailors, anglers, nature-lovers, seafood-lovers.
At the same time, it’s specific to the Chesapeake and encourages action.
“This one is well designed in terms of the positive message, not a negative message,” Hamilton said.
In other words, the key word is positive — “save” — rather than something negative such as “don’t pollute” or “don’t
destroy” the bay.
A good slogan has to meet multiple criteria, Hamilton said.
“It’s simple and easy to remember, meaningful, short. Those are good characteristics,” she said.
One possible shortcoming of “Save the Bay” is that it makes people think generally of the bay and not specifically of the bay foundation, Hamilton said.
But the slogan does relate to the overall restoration movement, and since CBF is one of the major players, most people are likely to end up connecting with CBF after hearing the motto and perhaps popping it into Google.
Winchester said the growth of the Internet has actually caused the bay foundation to think more carefully about its well-known motto.
Other environmental organizations across the country have adopted “Save the Bay” for their own bays, including San
Francisco Bay and Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Before the Internet, when most organizations had a regional reach at best, this wasn’t a problem. But when someone seeks out information for “Save the Bay,” the Chesapeake Bay Foundation wants to make sure its name pops up first.
Winchester said CBF has forged agreements with other “Save the Bay” groups that allows them to use the motto. But when the other groups do a national campaign, they’re asked to modify the motto a bit — for example, “Save the Bay – San Francisco.”
CBF didn’t want to make enemies among other environmental groups — after all, they all want clean water.
“We’re all in this together,” Winchester said. “We wanted to make this work for all of us.”
“Save the Bay” is trademarked by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Occasionally, the foundation has to sic its lawyers on
people who are trying to profit from the slogan or who are using it in a way that might reflect poorly on CBF. (For years, “Pave the Bay” has been informally used by people who perhaps don’t support the restoration effort.)
Even after 42 years of “Save the Bay” as the tagline for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, many still associate the slogan with other similarly named groups. The “Treasure the Chesapeake” license plates — which benefit another group, the Chesapeake Bay Trust — are often incorrectly attributed to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
And while “Save the Bay” drives the bay foundation’s employees and volunteers — it’s spelled out in big letters in the lobby of the foundation’s headquarters in Bay Ridge — they’re actually working for a day when the motto no longer is needed.
Winchester said the bay foundation will always be around, working as a watchdog and protecting the bay and its many rivers.
But what if the motto really does need to be set aside? What if the bay actually gets saved?
“Wouldn’t that be great?” Winchester said. “All of us here would celebrate it.”
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)