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Much Ado About a Slogan
Much Ado About a Slogan
Honest to goodness, Indiana

Much has been made about Indiana’s new tourism slogan, “Honest-to-Goodness Indiana.” Twitter had a hashtag heyday, as you can imagine. Indy Star ran an op-ed against it. Even USA Today picked it up.

Up in Lafayette, the Journal & Courier playfully offered their Rapid Response column up as a venue for readers to offer their own slogan ideas. And that’s exactly the problem I’ve had with this backlash. Its rapidity. Many of the reactions I’ve seen come off as very kneejerk. The commentary has rarely gone much further than the immediate emotional response—most commonly, that it’s mediocre, it’s Mayberry, it’s missing the mark.

If we’re looking at it from a purely creative lens, sure. It’s not the most inspired or exciting slogan for our state. But looking at marketing from a purely creative lens only gets you so far.

In Ogilvy’s classic On Advertising, he devotes an entire section to breaking down this lens. In it he writes, “If you ask which of my advertisements has been the most successful, I will answer without hesitation that it was the first ad I wrote for industrial development in Puerto Rico. It won no awards for ‘creativity,’ but it persuaded scores of manufacturers to start factories in that poverty-stricken island.”

So what other lenses are there through which to look at it? To name a few—gaps, grace, and most importantly, results.

Mind the market gaps.
This isn’t the only message Indiana is putting out into the world. Some people have argued that we should be touting our state’s focus on technology and bio-engineering, but our state’s commerce department is already handling that. Others have had a particularly urban-centric view about promoting our arts, culture, and burgeoning restaurant scene—but this seems very focused on Indy, and Visit Indy already has that pretty well covered.

So where can Visit Indiana fit in? By helping to promote the areas of our state with fewer resources to promote themselves. By working to serve the entire state, rather than its capitol, or its racing industry, or its sporting events. By crafting a message that can complement the other messages coming out of Indiana, but still be Visit Indiana’s to own.

This slogan sets them up to do exactly that. It sets them up to own the message of Hoosier Hospitality. That’s a message that gets played out a lot when national media comes to town, but no one has really stepped up to take control of it. And honestly, who better to own and champion that message than an organization whose primary mission is to promote Indiana’s hospitality industry?

Let’s extend ourselves a little grace.
The most disappointing part of this whole issue isn’t the slogan. It’s what we, as citizens of Indiana, have done with it. Right now, what’s hurting our state more than any mediocre marketing slogan, is that instead of seeing honesty and goodness as representative of our state, as something to aspire to, we’ve used it as an excuse to make jokes at our own expense.

Rather than taking pride in our hospitality, our cornfields, our swaths of national forest, our wine country and Amish country and our covered bridges, we have taken to the Internet to highlight the worst of ourselves: raging legislators, meth addiction, our status as a Fly Over State.

Let’s stop. We are Indiana. We have our problems, sure, but this slogan isn’t about that. This slogan is about providing a foundation for what could be a great campaign if we let it. Just like Indiana’s honesty and goodness could be a great foundation for who we want to become as a state: forward thinking, surprising, a destination. If we let it.

Wait until the results are in.
Results are easily the most important aspect to judge any campaign by. What good would a campaign be to Visit Indiana, even a campaign that wins creative awards, if it didn’t result in a boost in tourism?

At this point, the only results we have to judge this campaign by is its creative. And right now, the only way any of us can judge that is by our own aesthetics, our own ideas of what Indiana should represent, and our own ideas of what Visit Indiana’s job should be. Our own ideas.

But, Visit Indiana was no slouch about making sure as much of the state as possible was represented. Their brand development panel included individuals from the travel, tourism, hospitality, government leaders, and representatives from both the public and private sectors. Not to mention 8,000 people who took part in surveys and focus groups.

We don’t have access to those surveys. We don’t have access to the minutes from the focus groups or the strategic roundtables. We don’t know what Visit Indiana’s specific goals and objectives were for this campaign. We simply don’t have enough information right now.

So, let’s calm down. Ultimately, the test for this campaign will be, “Did it persuade scores of people to visit our honest-to-goodness state?” And I’ll add, “Did it persuade scores of Hoosiers that being wholesome and authentic isn’t such a bad thing?”

Until then, let’s do our part to help this campaign succeed. Let’s maybe stop insulting ourselves, and start celebrating the parts of our state that this slogan is meant to promote: our honesty and our goodness.