Sunday, May 23, 2010

Slogans R Us

Good piece by Cynthia Needham of the ProJo last Wednesday on Rhode Island’s Sisyphean efforts to brand itself to the world. Most of the ad campaigns, as the reporter points out, have been dismal failures. Consider:

“The biggest little state in the union” was meant to build state pride, which was never lacking in the first place.
“America’s First Resort” was geared toward attracting the upscale traveler to our mansions and yacht-saturated waters. A better bet might have been pitching “America’s Last Resort” to the downscale traveler interested in our duckpin bowling alleys, mini-golf courses and weiner joints.
“Rhode Island - Our People Make Us Great” was the slogan of choice preferred by former Gov. Edward DiPrete, who eventually pled guilty to charges of bribery, extortion and racketeering.
“Unwind in Rhode Island” was an appeal to daytrippers. The campaign featured lush photos of coastal drives and rides on back roads through orchards and woods crowned in brilliant foliage. It was undermined by “Rewind in Rhode Island,” the state’s “Groundhog Day” problems with never-ending road construction and potholes the size of small galaxies.
“400 Miles of Rest Stops Ahead” was another pitch to the road tripper. Enticements included photos of couples lounging on white sand beaches near gently curling blue waves. Unfortunately, most people reading the ad thought it meant how long they still had to go in order to get to Maine.
Then the call went out to families. The picture changed to a kid happily playing in the surf, accompanied by the words: “This Summer, Put Your Kids Through the Rinse Cycle.” Yeah. It’s always a good idea to alienate your customers by insinuating that they have dirty kids.

Needless to say, none of Rhody’s slogans lasted long.

It’s not entirely the fault of marketing. Distilling the essence of Rhode Island to a bumper sticker sized phrase is a metaphysical impossibility. Another problem: There can only be one “I (Heart) New York.” “I (Heart) RI,” in addition to being derivative, doesn’t have the same cachet. And with the heart already taken, the rebus approach is probably not the way to go – although “Think RI,” expressed as “I (Light Bulb) RI” has a certain Edisonian cognitive charm.

Other possibilities:
“Rhode Island: We Are What We Are.”
“Rhode Island: New England Atmosphere, New York Attitude.”
“Got Fun? Rhody-Size It.”
“Rhode Island: Not for nothin’ but we need your money.”

Actually if I were “Mad Men”-ing this thing, I’d go with a series of simple, elegant, single panel photographs (culminating in 365 images overall, one for each day of the year) showing iconic Rhody scenes, with the slogan - “Rhode Island: Wicked Awesome.”

Short. Sweet. Colloquially correct. Got your wicked. Got your awesome. What else do you need?

This week’s question: What would be a good slogan for Rhode Island?

(Note: Early blog this week because of Monday travels, and next week there will be no Monday blog since your friendly neighborhood Monday blogger plans to be in a kayak or on a tennis court or at the beach or in the pub or all of the above, in no particular order. Check back after Memorial Day.)