Crafting a Slogan to Sell Indiana

February 5, 2006

Indiana Writers Group column for Feb. 8 and thereafter
740 words

INDIANAPOLIS — As state tourism slogans go, Indiana’s latest — "Enjoy Indiana" — had to be an all-time worst. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman was right to dump it and embark on a search for something better.
    
No controversy there. The question is: Who decides what’s better?
    
In December, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development made clear that the issue would not be put up for a vote. Executive director Amy Vaughan said research and focus groups would be used to develop a slogan to promote Indiana and enhance its $7 billion tourism industry.
    
The thought of spending precious tax dollars with a marketing firm to oversee this process rankled more than a few Hoosiers, including the Indianapolis Star, which editorialized that Indiana should hold a contest and see what our most creative citizens can devise.
    
As an Eighth Grade teacher, I decided to hold a contest of my own. At no cost to taxpayers, here are some of my students’ best suggestions.
    
"Indiana — It’s a thriller." Ben Fisher got this idea from the title of the best-selling album of all-time, Indiana native Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  "Jackson and many other artists have lived in Indiana, home of great music," Ben said. Among the artists who could be featured in a  "Thriller" marketing campaign: Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Sandi Patty.
    
"Losing weight — one sub at a time." This suggestion from Ben Cardwell might not attract tourists, but could work wonders in a health and fitness campaign in a state where childhood obesity is a growing problem. "Jared Fogle from North Central High School and the home state of Indiana has helped many lose weight through the Subway commercials," Ben noted.
    
"Children of the corn." "I chose this because we have a great children’s museum and lots of corn," said Miranda Hoegberg. How much corn? Not as much as Nebraska, but still a lot. According to Purdue University, Indiana contributes 856 million bushels a year to total U.S. corn production of 10.9 billion bushels.
    
"Indiana — Who’s Your Hoosier?" The origin of the word "Hoosier" is a subject of much discussion within Indiana. A tourism campaign built around Catherine Olson’s idea would focus less on the word and more on famous Hoosiers (dead and alive) who have called Indiana home: Kurt Vonnegut, Ernie Pyle, Benjamin Harrison, James Dean, Garfield, Dave Letterman, to name just a few.
    
"Come see the marvels of Rome and Versailles — IN INDIANA." Evan Teague’s’ slogan could be the foundation of a campaign featuring the treasures of small-town Indiana, including the glorious West Baden Springs Hotel, which will reopen as a luxury resort in July 2007 along with long-awaited casino gambling.
    
And now for the student suggestion I think has most potential to get people to take notice.
    
"International, Indiana." "After all it is the crossroads," said Molly Winters in justifying her seemingly paradoxical choice. A tourism campaign built around this slogan could feature not only small towns with global names, like Rome, but our world-class institutions, such as the University of Notre Dame, and events that draw hundreds of thousands of people to our state each year, such as the Indy 500, U.S Grand Prix and the International Violin Competition.
    
I like Molly’s proposal because it’s a clever alliteration that plays off the name of our state capital, Indianapolis.
    
Of course, any slogan intended to sum up a state’s high points will have supporters and detractors. I don’t like New Jersey’s new catchphrase, "Come see for yourself," which was picked by the public after the governor narrowed down 8,000 suggestions from citizens to his five favorites.
    
But I love Pennsylvania’s, "State of Independence," which was unveiled in March 2004. There, the tourism office sponsored a contest called Penn a Phrase for Pennsylvania and received 21,774 submissions during a month-long entry period. The tourism office forwarded 1,800 of those slogans to a selection committee, which narrowed the field to five. Those were posted on the state web site for an on-line vote.
    
In a sign the Indiana tourism office is bowing to public’s pressure to have input, on Feb. 1 it added a feature to its website inviting Hoosiers to share their suggestions for two, three or four-word slogans that best capture a sense of Indiana’s "many faces and places."
    
I just can’t wait until April, when tourism officials are expected to announce Enjoy Indiana’s successor. It better be a thriller.

Andrea Neal, former editorial page editor of the Indianapolis Star, is adjunct scholar and columnist with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at aneal@inpolicy.org.



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