Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

February 24, 2014

Feb. 24, 2014: Weekly wrap

(Continued)

Lost in translation may be the difference, in the arcane world of marketing, between a brand and a slogan. A marketing professional explained it to us this way: Nike’s swoosh represents the brand. “Just Do It” is the slogan. And the brand encompasses everything about the commodity being promoted, including the audience’s desired reactions to it. In this case, the brand is that which attracts people to Indiana for a visit or vacation.

While many, including we, would have preferred something more assertive, less folksy than “Honest to Goodness Indiana,” the sound of that brand may grow on Hoosiers — and others — as they see and hear messages built around the brand in ads and promotions in print, on the Web and on TV and radio. Those ads aren’t apparent yet, even on the tourism development department’s website.

A long-standing Terre Haute company, Williams Randall, was deeply involved in developing the brand as part of what has been reported to be a $100,000 contract with the state. So owners and staff at the company are seeing this debate up close — and personal. And not flinching. “We are confident in the new brand,” McKenze Rogers of Williams Randall’s Indianapolis office told The Star. “We are focused solely on moving forward.”

And, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal, the brand arose from a collaborative and progressive process that involved nearly three dozen people who work in travel, tourism, hospitality industries and government. Then, about 8,000 consumers took part in surveys and focus groups to test brand ideas. So “Honest to Goodness Indiana” wasn’t the first or only brand idea considered. Nor was it frivolously arrived at.

How much the brand matters remains to be seen, given the paltry amount of money Indiana budgets for promoting tourism. That amount was cut by a third to $2.3 million in 2013. Meantime, states surrounding Indiana spend far more to promote their virtues to attract visitors. According to IBJ, tourism budgets for Kentucky and Ohio range from two to four times that of Indiana’s. The tourism budget for Michigan has risen to $27 million, and Illinois spends more than twice what Michigan spends, IBJ reported. And all of those states advertise within our media markets to entice our residents.

So, that funding shortage may be the biggest test of the new brand’s effectiveness, or ineffectiveness.

Honest to goodness.

— Tribune-Star, Terre Haute

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