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COMMUNITY VOICE

'Honest to Goodness Indiana' is actually a marketing coup for state

Monday, March 3, 2014 - 12:01 am

As I hope most readers know, Indiana now has a new state slogan and logo that promote tourism, the state’s sixth-largest industry.

“Honest to Goodness Indiana” was selected by marketing/tourism folks and state officials as being all-inclusive when it comes to promoting the Hoosier state. The Indiana Office of Tourism Development picked up the $100,000 price tag.

Many residents find the slogan a bit corny or countrified. Can you say Gomer Pyle? One Indianapolis journalist wondered, “What does (that) even mean?”

The fact is, it’s a branding coup for Mark Newman, executive director of the tourism office, and his crew, because despite the fact residents may view our state as a patchwork quilt of casinos, Colts and cornfields, tourists view Indiana as “peaceful, welcoming, relaxing, beautiful and simplistic.”

This was borne out in Advertising Effectiveness Research conducted in November 2006. Ironically, that was the same year the last campaign, “Restart Your Engines” (a not very peaceful, relaxing or beautiful slogan that focused on one city’s attraction) was launched.

The AER also noted that it is difficult to change public perception, whether in 2006 or 2014.

But promoting Indiana is easier said than done. That is because, unlike most other states, which continue to increase tourism budgets, since 2009 Indiana has slashed its budget from $3.9 million to less than $2 million. And while other states spent an average $14.9 million in 2013 to promote tourism, Indiana spent a whopping $2.3 million.

Indiana’s neighbors, Illinois and Michigan, ramped up 2013 tourism dollars to the tune of $55.4 million and $27.4 million, respectively. Even spending much less, Ohio ($5.0 million) and Kentucky ($7.4 million) outspent us.

The results are dire. According to a comprehensive feature in the July 2013 Indiana Business Journal, it was noted that brand awareness and promotion is so bad even Indiana residents have no idea what attractions the state has to offer. “Pure Michigan” ads, however, draw Hoosiers across the border to play in lakes and enjoy activities they could experience at home.

The list of Indiana’s “peaceful, welcoming, relaxing, beautiful and simplistic” attractions is endless, and our newly coined slogan is a fitting extension of the honest-to-goodness values of the Hoosier State and its residents.

So what, exactly, are those attractions? Sand dunes, caverns and rolling hills. Covered bridges, historic structures and world-class architecture. Meandering rivers and sparkling lakes. Public art, museums, state parks and wineries. Amish, Mennonite and Swiss communities. And, yes, sporting events.

And that’s just for starters – no engines required.

Please support Indiana tourism and your local convention and visitor’s bureau, Travel Indiana, and let others know what’s best about your city and your state. And let the world know the Hoosier state is about much more than an oval race track and cornfields. Newman and the Indiana OTD need your help.

C.J. Woodring is a Fort Wayne-based freelance writer and editor.