Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Kentucky Kicks...Butt? The Art of Slogan

"We certainly would not sanction or endorse that phraseology. These guys are Kentucky natives and they love the state, but they have a different constituency. Which is no one."-Kentucky Tourism Department Spokesman Pat Stipes

Full disclosure: Before I moved to Texas in 2008, I lived in Kentucky for almost four years. In fact, the year I moved there was the year that the state slogan, "Unbridled Spirit," was launched.

If you had asked me now what the state slogan is, I definitely would not have remembered to answer "Unbridled Spirit" and it's very doubtful that I would have remembered what it was when I actually lived there.

That's not to say that "Kentucky Kicks Ass" is the solution to Kentucky's slogan and tourism problems. That is evident in the particularly divisive reactions from YouTube commenters:

"I watch this every 3 hours to lift my spirits. I love the commonwealth." 

"This is just plain great. Kentucky does, indeed, kick some ass. :)"

"They did a great job at doing exactly the opposite of what should be done in order to 're-brand Kentucky'. If anything, all they did was reinforce a stereotypical perspective of the state."

"This is ridiculous. As a proud Kentucky native, a passionate professional marketer and an experienced destination branding consultant - this is not a strong tourism branding direction for Kentucky."

And therein lies the oft-encountered problem with slogans: They can either play it too safe and suffer from being forgettable or take a risk and suffer from being divisive. It's either this or this

While I do think "Kentucky Kicks Ass" is much more memorable, fun, and state-spirity than "Unbridled Spirit," I also don't think it works as anything but a spirit-booster for people who already live in Kentucky. Where "Unbridled Spirit" succeeded in saying something about what makes the state special, they did it in a forgettable way whereas "Kentucky Kicks Ass" succeeded in being catchy and memorable but failed to say anything that any other state couldn't say. 

No other state could say "Everything's Bigger in Texas" than Texas and no other state could say "It's Good Being First" other than Delaware. 

This slogan practice doesn't start and stop with state slogans, it's something to think about with any brand. Your slogan, no matter how edgy and button-pushing, can't be so generic to where people still don't know what makes your brand special. But it can't be so safe that it's going to blend in with everything else in the market.

No matter what you're selling, if you don't both recognize what makes your product special and have an unmatched passion for it, people will not hop on board. Your slogan is one of the first impressions you get to make and it's important that you not mess it up. 

Share your thoughts with us: Do you prefer "Kentucky Kicks Ass," "Unbridled Spirit" or neither? Have any thoughts about slogan writing? Sound off below!