Just a few hours after “Honest to Goodness Indiana” was announced as our state’s new tourism brand, it was already being pummeled by social media pundits for being too hokey, hicky and, well, Hoosiery.
“Golly gee-wilikers Pa! Can we really go to Indiana? It’s so WHOLESOME,” said one person who wrote on The Indianapolis Star’s Facebook page in derision of the brand.
And our newspapering colleagues at The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne headlined their editorial on the brand: “This is, honest to goodness, the best they could do?”
Even the website of the Indiana Department of Tourism Development, the very office that announced the brand, carried comments from critics who asked how the brand squares with a state whose governor and Republican leaders in both houses of the Legislature persisted in their desire to have a ban on gay marriage cemented into the state constitution. How, those critics asked, could Indiana be seen as welcoming to all who might want to visit to explore the Wabash River, the verdant hills and gullies, the musical festivals, the community celebrations, the sports and entertainment events, and the offerings at our great colleges and universities?
Perhaps it was bad timing by the state to have launched the brand change amid the torrent of a divisive same-sex marriage debate. But even absent that fractious debate, the brand — perhaps any brand — was sure to draw potshots at the outset, and it did. No brand pleases everyone, including the brand that is being replaced: “Restart Your Engines.”
Slower to speak out will be those who support the brand’s embrace of traditional Hoosier values of hospitality, honesty and essential goodness. (Cynics, though, will find reasons to deny that Hoosiers actually demonstrate those values to outsiders or those who don’t conform to the majority view.)