kentucky kicks a**

One of the very first blog posts I published in 2005 was a repurposing of an op-ed article I wrote for the Courier-Journal about the failure of the Unbridled Spirit “rebranding” of Kentucky. I’ve used that story many many times since then. It’s featured prominently in Brand Zeitgeist. I use it in my marketing keynotes when I speak about branding. Because I’m from the Bluegrass State, it’s one of my favorite ways to talk about misconceptions on brand strategy.

branding keynote speechAfter seven years of lackluster response to Unbridled Spirit, someone decided to do something about it. A group calling themselves Kentucky for Kentucky has taken the task of reimagining the branding of the state commonwealth.

They’ve replaced “Unbridled Spirit” with “Kentucky kicks a**” (no asterisks) complete with a YouTube video that’s gone viral and related merchandise.

Their campaign, which is only a few weeks old, has already outpaced the real campaign run by the Kentucky Department of Tourism in Facebook likes, video views, etc. It made a big jump when it picked up national exposure in the USA Today this week.

Many have faulted the state tourism department spokesman for their response, but I can see the point of the tourism bureaucrats trying to distance themselves from this homegrown branding effort because of the vulgarity of it. It plays well with certain demos, but will turn off others which is a death knell for tourism.

While I’ve gone on record against vulgarity, I do like the fact that this campaign does something right. It has emotion. It has personality. Instead of trying to cram a corporate brand message down someone’s throat, it takes the brand equity that is there and translates it into something people want to share and experience. State leaders should take a lesson of how to properly translate a brand message into something people want to share.

(btw. KY does kick a**.)

municipal branding comes home

In many posts in the early years of this blog, I was (and still am) an ardent opponent of the idea of municipal branding. Municipal branding is the crazed idea that is sold by branding consultants to government leaders that just slapping a logo and a tagline on a location somehow makes it different.

This phenomenon has now raised its ugly head in my backyard as an area of downtown Bowling Green is now supposedly known as the milquetoast brand of “City Center“.

(The name somehow reminds me of Delta City in Robocop.  I’m also fairly sure the City Center folks in Las Vegas may have some legal questions for the downtown BG folks.)

If I may be so bold to quote myself from Brand Zeitgeist

…While visual and tactile representations like logos and colors are important, the real significance of a brand is not something that can been seen or touched.

At its most basic, a brand is a relationship between something and an individual. A brand is a promise that past performance will be an indicator of future results. A brand is shaped by a customer’s positive and negative interactions with the brand. You might see a brand as something only related to a company or other structured organization. However, anything can be a brand: a product, a service, an experience, a person.

Your brand is your most powerful asset, but it’s also an asset that you don’t really own. Branding is not developed from the top down. It’s developed from the bottom up. The consumer, not the company, dictates what the brand image is for any product. The frustrating reality of branding is that while you can provide the tools and platforms of a brand strategy, the brand actually exists only in the minds of the public, the same as the zeitgeist….

I totally concur that visual representations of a brand like logos, taglines, etc are important. They provide visual shorthand for what the brand means. But the real key to building a memorable brand is to provide positive customer experiences and build on the brand equity that is already there (downtown Bowling Green has existed since 1798).

I stand my my mantra: “Marketing is best built-in, not slapped on

last train to brandville

Long time readers of the Shotgun Marketing Blog know that I’m a big anti-fan of the idea of governments trying to “rebrand” a geographic area — (many past examples here)

City leaders of Clarksville, TN are tired of all the negative publicity their town is getting so they are looking for a new slogan.

Earlier this month, a citizen committed a Budd Dwyer style suicide during a city council meeting.

Yeah. A catchy slogan ought to do it. Maybe even a jingle.

(thanks to mvp for the tip)

Czech Mate

Just as we’re “re-branding” every spot on the map in the U.S….the phenomenon has spread worldwide. The Czech Republic now has a logo. [LINK]

Newsflash:: Most countries already have a logo…it’s called a FLAG.

I’m no expert on Eastern European Graphic Design…but it looks a LITTLE busy to be a logo. It looks to be more of a poster. Each of the little cartoon bubbles highlights a part of the Czech culture. From the press release….

It’s very bouncy and playful, and one row of bubbles is dedicated to words like “mushrooming”, or “Christmas carp” and “remoska” referring to favourite Czech hobbies and a very famous Czech portable oven.

Ahhh, nothing like the lights on the tree and the Christmas carp in the oven.

(Sad Disclosure — I actually got a little giddy when I thought of the corny title to this post. Close runners up were “Czech, Please” and “Czech out this new logo”. …I think I made the best choice.)

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New Jersey

Some people collect stamps…or coins…or dust.

Apparently, I collect stories about the fallacy of municipal “re-branding”…[here] [here] [here] [here] and [here]

The latest?…New Jersey

As usually happens when states and cities “rebrand”, clever people come up with slogans based on the REAL brand position that place currently holds. AdJab has several funny alternatives such as “New Jersey: Not just a dumping ground for dead bodies

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Sherman’s Branding to the Sea

Apparently, I have not captured the attention of civic leaders with my rants, ridicule, and general hatred of the fallacy of “re-branding” a city/ state /or any product

Another city has jumped on the branding bandwagon…Atlanta.

The slogan behind their new logo is the 3 “O’s”…Opportunity – Optimism – Openness

I have a few other suggestions for slogans…
–Atlanta – You’ve connected in the airport. Try staying longer
–Atlanta – Come to Peachtree Street. No, the other one. No, the other one…
–Atlanta – Come for the traffic. Stay for the congestion.
–Atlanta – Coke & CNN
And of course..
–Hot-lanta

The My-Lanta Blog has some neat/funny variations of the logo that represents “all the best that Atlanta has to offer”. (Family friendly warning – some are slightly vulgar)

Link::“Official” Atlanta Brand site

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More Municipal Brand Talk!

We”re stuck on a topic. But, it’s a good one…the “rebranding” of municipalities and states. Tara a/k/a “miss rogue” had a great comment about cities’ brand strategy…

“…Perhaps re-branding a city wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it involved the actual inhabitants and went beyond a silly logo and an advertising campaign. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…”

That’s right on the mark. Too many cities (and companies) focus on the logos and ads rather than the actual brand makers. I touched on that lightly in the Kentucky brand article I linked to in the previous posts.

The problem is that when cities do try to reach out and change perceptions they are ridiculed by the media and masses for “wasting taxpayers’ money” just as much or more than they are for creating the logos and ads. Often, the logo gets better press that the effort.

A good example is when former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani launched his quality of life campaign for New York in the mid-90s. It helped the New York brand, but was widely panned in the press.

A current example is the US Government’s PR effort to change the perceptions of America…particularly in the Arab world. A lot of the negative hype over that move that is partisan and political, but obviously the US needs a PR boost.

And my favorite (fictional) example from Seinfeld…Dinkins loses the race to Giuliani because of Elaine’s suggestion to Lloyd Braun that everyone in the City wear nametags to make New York a nicer place.

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Brand it

One of the local Chambers of Commerce is having a press conference this week to “unveil” their new brand for economic development efforts.

That’s interesting.

I’m having a press conference next week to unveil my new personality and what people think about me. Starting next week, I would like to be referred to as Foster.

The two are the same concept. People get the terms “brand” and “logo” confused. A lot.

The personality analogy is a little incomplete, but gets the idea across. Your brand is what people expect from you. You influence it by the way you act and talk…the ideas you share. You define the parameters of what people expect from you. But in the end, people will establish their own perception of you. In a corporate sense, this is called your “BRAND”.

A logo is akin to the human face. When people I know see me, they recognize me by my physical characteristics. “Hey, it’s Chris. (or next week…”Hey, it’s Foster”) From that recognition, their mind pulls up what they think about me (my personality/brand characteristics)

If I had a facelift or cosmetic surgery (I changed my logo), it would not greatly affect what people thought of me.

And yet, companies do this all the time. A new logo will not change “your brand”. Changing what you do changes your brand…slowly. You’re defining your brand if you have a brand strategy or not. People are making judgements on the brand with every interaction they have with your business.

I’m sure the inspiration for this “brand” move from the local Chamber came from the “branding of Kentucky” movement. Kentucky and Oregon are the only two states that have brand strategies (all 50 actually have brands, by the way). I wrote an article for one of the state’s newspapers about Kentucky’s misplaced branding efforts back in January. I have a copy of that article on the blog. You can read it here.

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