A USA Today headline asked this morning, Does Kentucky need a kick ass makeover? The article, flanked by a travel ad that suggests West Virginia is “Wild and Wonderful,” refers to a Lexington ad group’s new video proposing to switch Kentucky’s brand from “Unbridled Spirit” (created by a different advertising group, New West, in 2004) to “Kentucky kicks ass.”
The USA Today writer asks:
“What comes to mind when you think about Kentucky? (Assuming you do think about Kentucky, that is.)
I’m betting fried chicken, bourbon and horse racing.”
A state tourism spokesperson is quoted in the article as saying, “We certainly would not sanction or endorse that phraseology,” and the state’s humorless response is making the social media rounds. (A Colorado town’s “WTF” campaign — Welcome to Fruita — met similar resistance according to a USA Today Report.)
A decade ago, Lexington got into a spirited battle with Ocala, Florida over which city is really the undisputed Horse Capital of the World. In 2009, there was more debate when the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled the big blue painting of the horse Big Lex for Lexington branding. The University of Kentucky was met with derision when their agency launched “The Next Great University” slogan more than a decade ago, and the slogan was quickly shuttered.
Ohio governor John Kasich polled Ohio citizens about what they wanted on their new license plates earlier this year, asking residents to select “the one slogan, phrase, or fact that you think best describes Ohio!” Options ranged from the ill-advised “rubber capital of the world” and “mother of presidents,” to the vaguely meaningless and probably inaccurate “Ohio has it all.” Lexington has some history of soliciting citizen input on branding, including the naming of the Newtown Pike Extension.
Lexington icon Big Ass Fans occasionally encounters resistance to the light-hearted nature of their brand, and they are known for leaning into it. When Blue Grass airport rejected the donation of a $4500 Big Ass Fan, on the grounds that it might offend some travelers, the manufacturer suggested the board “reassess their sensibilities” after the airport leadership’s strip club spending was exposed by the Herald Leader in 2009.
While Kentucky Kicks Ass does have a license-plate friendly brevity to it, Kentucky Tourism probably won’t switch ad agencies anytime soon (though they might just still be skittish after firing the British firm that came up with “Roadkill Bingo” to promote Kentucky abroad, the same firm that ran a $20k/year website that misidentified the Kentucky Derby as running at Keeneland and erroneously promoted Kentucky as home to Georgia’s fictional Hazzard County from the Dukes of Hazzard.)
State Slogan Match Game
Can You Match These States with Their State Slogans? (Sometimes it’s tricky distinguishing mottos from slogans. For example, Ohio is known as the Buckeye State — just as Kentucky is the Bluegrass State — but it has tried out a variety of mottos and brands, like “the heart of it all,” and later, “the birthplace of aviation,” sparking a nasty tiff with North Carolina, which is “First in Flight.”)
While Florida is the Sunshine State and New Jersey is the Garden State and Texas is the Lone Star State (and you certainly shouldn’t mess with Texas), what about the other 48 or so?
Match the slogan…
a. Live Free or Die
b. North to the Future
c. Qui Transtulit Sustinet
d. Where the Oxford Comma Goes to Die
e. The Volunteer State
…With the State
1. New Hampshire
4. We might have made this one up.
a-1; b-2; c-3; d-4; e-5 (we gave you that one)