Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 18, 2014

TOM JEKEL: Indiana's new tourism slogan an improvement over past?

Admit it: It's better than 'Restart Your Engines' of 2006.


Kokomo Tribune

---- — The new state tourism slogan unveiled last week by the state Office of Tourism Develop­ment is “Honest to Goodness Indiana.”

Here’s the back story on the new marketing campaign, courtesy of the tourism folks and Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann:

“The development of a new brand is an opportunity to create a unified consumer message for Indiana ...”

Unified. I like it. Sounds promising so far.

“... connecting all regions; from north to central to south.”

Check. That’s an important factor. We want it to unite Hoosiers far and wide.

“The goals of this project were simple: to create a brand that truly represents the entire state; to be respectful of Indiana’s history but also be forward looking; and to be fitting for both rural and urban settings.”

After a year’s worth of research and development, that’s what we got.

You will have to admit it’s an improvement over “Restart Your Engines,” which revved up in 2006. Being as how I didn’t even know that tourism slogan existed, it might as well have been “Our tourism economic engine is sputtering and in the garage for repairs; it should be ready by Tuesday.”

The knock on “Engines,” from people who knew the slogan existed, is its primary connection was to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is important to the economy of Indianapolis a few months out of the year but doesn’t do much to promote northern Indiana wine country or the natural rolling hills of southern Indiana’s Brown County.

At least “Honest to Goodness Indiana” is better than “Wander Indiana” of the 1980s, which became a punchline.

If people wandered long enough, as some comedians said, perhaps visitors would eventually find something of interest in Indiana.

But some of “Wander’s” successors were just as bad.

“You could use a little Indiana:” That one was popular among out-of-state basketball teams looking to improve their position in the Big Ten football standings.

“Enjoy Indiana; the welcome mat is always out:” But we kept shuffling our dirty boots on it.

“Travel Indiana:” If you’re taking the northern east-west interstate, that one will take a toll on you.

One of the factors that confuses things for the “Indiana” brand is that there are all kinds of slogans out there — not just one unifying one as the tourism folks suggest should be a key goal.

For example, the state motto is “The Crossroads of America,” adopted back in 1937 by the state Legislature.

If that were a “Jeopardy!” clue, I would be all over that with “What is the official slogan of Indiana?”

But it’s the motto, not the tourism slogan. I would have lost points with that answer.

Hailing from Wisconsin, I know for a fact the motto of my home state is “America’s Dairyland.”

Or do I?

Upon further checking, Wisconsin’s motto is “Forward.”

“America’s Dairyland” is what you’ll find on the license plates of vehicles that have been registered in the Badger State.

Here in Indiana, there are so many license-plate sayings and designs that no one can even name them all, not even a college honors student.

Besides the basic “Bicentennial 1816-2016” and “In God We Trust” plates, our state offers specialty-plate options for:

Six different branches of military service.

Fifty-six organizations, including mottos such as the Tony Stewart Foundation’s “Accelerating change” and the Indiana Soccer plate’s “Live with goals.”

College and university license plates for 33 universities. The list does include Indiana University Purdue University of Fort Wayne but does not include Indiana University Purdue University Columbus. Do I hear 34?

Among other states, it’s hard to top “I Love New York,” which has been used since 1977, or “Virginia is for Lovers,” launched in 1969.

But with the state having so many different slogans, mottos or brands, Indiana desperately needs to settle on one that works across the board, so we don’t have to keep paying marketing firms to think up new ones every few years.

As it stands, Indiana’s slogan might as well be “State of Confusion.”

Kind of catchy?

Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic of Columbus. Contact him at tjekel@therepublic.com.