Honesty best policy when it comes to state slogan

CARSON CITY

When it comes to marketing, I’m far from an expert.

But I am a repository of thousands of commercials, jingles and ad campaigns absorbed over years of wasted hours watching TV. And that experience suggests Nevada’s new branding campaign may not go down in history.

How do I know? Well, for starters, the new branding slogan is “A World Within. A State Apart.”

That slogan — developed after spending about $250,000 in room-tax money with a Seattle-based marketing company — is far better than some of the runners-up. “Live Bold,” “Soaring Possibilities,” “All In Nevada,” “Go All Out” and “Live Brighter” all were distinguished mostly the fact that they’re the kind of thing Don Draper would have killed with a withering glance.

There’s a new state jingle, too, although it’s actually an old jingle: It’s the cowboy song, “Don’t Fence Me In,” updated and performed by Nevada native band The Killers.

Yeah, we Nevadans hate fences and rules and conformity. That’s why we introduce 4,621 bills regulating our homeowner associations every legislative session.

The new slogan and accompanying branding campaign is supposed to market Nevada to tourists and new businesses, boosting state revenue in the process. “The brand truly embraces all of us,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said at an unveiling ceremony Tuesday.

But like all re-branding campaigns, Nevada’s new slogan ignores the central issue — making the product itself more appealing.

Then again, “Who Needs Students Who Can Count to More Than 21?” isn’t exactly the way to attract high-tech companies. And, “Nevada: Land of Freedom Unless You Want to Smoke Pot, Make a Sports Bet at a Kiosk in a Restricted Gaming Property, Marry Your Gay Partner or Visit a Legal Brothel in Las Vegas,” isn’t a line that’s going to attract that many new visitors.

Since almost all previous Nevada slogans — including and perhaps especially “What happens here stays here” — are lies, perhaps Nevada should have considered the radical marketing strategy of telling the truth. Yes, that’s generally a last resort, but owning the state’s true nature — warts and all — could be the pathway to success.

How about, “Nevada: We’ll Turn Tricks For You!” Yes, it’s a clever allusion to the state’s legalized brothel industry, but it’s also true. Ask Apple if the company’s nearly 90 percent tax abatements aren’t downright magical. And if we’ll do it for Apple, we’ll do it for anybody, whether they sell circuit boards or fried chicken.

Along the same lines, there’s “Nevada: Brought to You By Casinos.” A lobbyist for the Nevada Resort Association told a Senate committee the other day that protecting the state’s top industry — big casinos — from the clear and present danger of sports betting kiosks was the highest priority of the Nevada Legislature.

“Nevada: Welcome Grifters” is another good, honest marketing idea. The state, after all, was essentially founded on an industry that has no tangible product and that’s based on separating math-challenged suckers from their money. And, thus far at least, we’ve attracted tons of businesses that join our pyramid scheme, forever searching for somebody else to tax to pay for what we call “state services.”

“Nevada: What We Mean By Freedom Is…” This is aimed squarely at those people who are perfectly content with a definition of freedom that embraces a government big enough to outlaw abortion, but small enough that it cannot require the vaccinations of children; large enough to tell gay people they may not marry, but small enough to thwart fair and accurate campaign finance reporting. It’s not everybody who can get their minds around that unique definition of freedom, but many of them find their way to testify before the Nevada Legislature.

A state apart? Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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