No foolin': New state tourism pitch is 'Honest to Goodness'

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The Indiana Office of Tourism Development on Wednesday parked its tagline “Restart your engines” and unveiled its replacement: “Honest to Goodness Indiana.”

The new tourism slogan is the hook for a widescale state rebranding campaign. The folksy sentiment is the essence of the state’s reputation for hospitality, said IOTD Executive Director Mark Newman, who made the announcement today at the Indiana Historical Society alongside Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann.

Tourism slogan honest to goodness 15colThe slogan plays off the concept of Hoosier hospitality. (Image: Indiana Office of Tourism Development)

“Everywhere you go in Indiana, the people and the experiences are genuine. Even our busiest attractions satisfy and delight visitors because here, more so than anywhere else, hospitality matters,” said Ellspermann in prepared comments.

The “Restart Your Engines” campaign was launched in April 2006, but tourism officials around the state complained that it was too Indianapolis-centric.

Early in the process to find a replacement for that brand message, IOTD convened a brand development panel, comprised of more than 30 individuals from within the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, as well as government leaders and representatives from both the public and private sectors.

Additionally, nearly 8,000 consumers participated in the development process through surveys and focus groups, Newman said. Participants were asked to describe the qualities, attributes and allure of Indiana. IOTD then developed the brand campaign with Indianapolis-based marketing company Williams Randall.

The branding work fell within an existing contract between IOTD and Williams Randall, according to the agency. The firm received $100,000 in IOTD's last fiscal year for work under the contract, which included the brand development.

The development of a new brand is an opportunity to create a unified consumer message for Indiana, connecting all regions, Newman said. The goals of the re-branding project, Newman added, were to create a brand that truly represents the entire state; to be respectful of Indiana’s history but also be forward-looking; and to be fitting for both rural and urban settings.

“'Honest to Goodness Indiana' is reflective of the entire state, and for the first time in many years our consumer brand incorporates all regions of Indiana," Newman said.

Indiana’s tourism arm still has some big challenges to address. Indiana ranks 47th among U.S. states in spending for tourism promotion, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

All its neighboring states have much bigger marketing budgets. Newman has launched several programs to try to raise revenue for his department, but it will be a steep climb to catch up to neighboring states.

The agency has seen its budget slashed from $3.9 million in 2009 to $2.3 million in 2013. In the last decade, the department’s staff has been cut from 12 to four, and several of its marketing publications have been discontinued.

As Indiana slashed its tourism budget, Michigan increased its widespread Pure Michigan ad campaign from $17 million to $27.4 million. Illinois, where budget problems have earned the state the nation’s worst credit rating—A3 by Moody’s Investors Service—spends more than twice as much as Michigan. And travel budgets in Ohio and Kentucky are two to four times larger than Indiana’s.

Despite its relatively small budget, IODT is working on an aggressive slate of initiatives:

— Launching a marketing campaign this year that features the new tagline.

— Overhauling the travel guide, selling ads for it and changing the way it gets pushed to outside markets. Newman wants it to be more of a magazine, and will direct-mail it to homes and businesses in Indianapolis, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Cincinnati and Louisville.

— Increasing emphasis and reliance on social media to push marketing messages.

— Working on plans for the state's bicentennial celebration in 2016.

— Developing programs to promote sports, culinary, cultural and arts tourism attractions.

— Taking over responsibility for publishing and selling the state road map. The Department of Transportation has published a map in the past. The map also could promote tourism destinations.

— Developing a tourism curriculum for fourth-graders combining elements of history and tourism. Having tested the curriculum last year at Promise Road Elementary School in Noblesville, Newman is searching for sponsors.

— Developing a travel app for mobile devices for which the agency could sell ads.

“We are at a unique time where we have an opportunity to create unprecedented momentum for our state with the bicentennial approaching in 2016,” he said.


  • Dummmmmmb
    This is a terrible slogan. It's all Obamas fault for this
  • Budget
    With such a small budget, try eliminating the ads within the state. I just watched 5 of these cheesy commercials in one hour. I travel in Indiana. IDIOTS!
  • New slogan proposal
    How about: "Where Good Things Happen" or "Where Good Happens"?
  • Really?
    What kind of people took the survey. 8,000 people over 70? Ingenuity Indiana! Come on! Stale, and hickish. What the girls would say from that one commercial "Ewe! Gross!!!"
  • Mississippi of the North
    For those making comments about Indiana being the Mississippi of the North, you should all aspire to be this http://youtu.be/a72vZnktui8
  • So Right!
    Couldn't agree more with your assessment, Ostrich. Indiana has become the Mississippi of the North.
  • Preach George Preach!
    Just wanted to second George Evan's comments. This "tagline" is extremely weak. We would have been better with reviving "Wander Indiana". Instead we have something that paints us backwards and folksy. Well, I guess that isn't entirely untrue...
  • Really
    I wonder how much they payed a professional marketing agency for a worthless slogan. Should have let purdue decide. How about something 21st century.
  • Look to the top
    How can you complain about the committee or agency when you see who leads our state. Think about it. Honest to goodness doesn't that describe our governor. It says nothing is backwards and provides no specifics. Just like Mr Pence.
  • Honest to goodness rednecks
    That is the absolute worst marketing slogan I've ever heard. It's embarrassing and furthers the stereotype of the state as being rural and uncouth. I liked a previous commenter's suggestion of "Indiana: the Mississippi of the North"--that one's much more accurate and descriptive. Meanwhile, the city of Indianapolis needs to do everything possible to disassociate themselves with Indiana as much as possible and market their own attractions separately. No more identifying with Indiana--CITY FIRST. Being affiliated with such a backwards state kills the city's desirability big time.
  • Stinky
    Embarrassing. Who paid for this dribble? Taxpayers.
  • Honest To Goodness...
    Honest to goodness homophobes? Hayseeds? Hicks? NRA promoters? Racists? Misogynists? While the new "slogan" is really tragic, it's still not nearly as bad as the ugly truths that define this back asswards state, so maybe the "by golly awe shucks gee whillakers" of it all will take some of the stink off of us. Honest. I can honestly say we're not a homophobic, racists, religiously backward bunch of gun-toting dullards. Honest we're not. Honest. Honest to goodness.
  • Honest to Goodness...
    Honest to goodness, my commute was 15 minutes this morning.
  • Seriously?
    There is much in my former state that is worthy of celebration and certainly visitation. A homespun tag line is not the stumbling block to attracting tourism, but budget cuts, staff reduction, discontinuation of publications while competing states increase spending certainly are problematic. A proposed gay marriage ban will do the state no good, nor will chronic self loathing. If Hoosiers are serious about tourism, they need a legislative and executive branch in touch with the reality of what it takes.
  • Slogan
    After the HJ3 bill passed they dropped the planned "Have A Gay Old Time" slogan.
  • Debate all you want
    because what percentage of people do you really think visit a state because of a marketing tagline. We should wait to see if the overall campaign effectively leverages "honest to goodness" by telling stories that make Indiana attractive to visitors. It's not difficult to imagine how it could do so in way that honors the Hoosier Hospitality many reference here but also about being honest about some of the unexpected goodness (as it great) that can be found in various attractions and destinations.
    • sigh
      I love living in Indiana. I was born here and grew up here. I lived in SoCal for a few years and moved back upon starting a family. This is a GREAT place for families. Easy to live, no 90 minute commutes, reasonable cost of living, et cetera. But tourism? No. Let IMS and the Children's Museum promote themselves. With some bleed-over visits to the IMA and a few other unique attractions in the state. Southern IN has a few caves and Holiday World. There are some great restaurants in the state, but nothing that can't be found in dining meccas like NYC, ORD or SFO. Let's concentrate on filmmaking, or industry or tech if we have to subsidize something. I can't imagine living in OK or FL or MN, or somewhere else 1000 miles away and saying to my family, let's spend a week in Indianapolis. Sad I feel that way, I guess, because I do like living here, but it is the truth. (And IBJ, if you could add paragraphs to your comments, that would be awesome. Because this is going to look like crap.)
    • It's not the hate state (or doesn't have to be.
      Believe me, growing up in Indiana had its high points. You can't beat mushroom hunting in the spring, firefly catching in the summer, leaf peeping in the fall and ...driving down I-75 to Florida in the winter. The town I grew up in was, on its surface, adorable. Handsome civil-war era houses, a Richardsonian courthouse square, a main street with a dress shop, grocery, bank, restaurant, ice-cream fountain, a Carney-built library. It did indeed appear Honest to Goodness. (It could also be an insular, at times violently racist and anti-intellectual place – but it had its charms.) When it comes to the issue at hand, the attempt to "brand" the state of Indiana for the purposes of tourism and reputation, the central question is, can our state's brand have anything to do with tourism at all? Tourism is, at the heart of it, a form of escape from one's norms. You live in a cold place, you escape to somewhere warm. You live in a flat place, you escape to mountains. So if honest to goodness "norms" is what the state is embracing, to whom would we be selling escape? For any tourism promotion to work, the target of this communication must care, or be made to care for cost of their escape. The message has to suggest, or challenge, or demonstrate why an escape (of one form or another) to Indiana is an unmissable opportunity. This is the unsolved problem with the position "Honest to Goodness" as a "reflection" of the state's charms. It's been the problem since we first started tourism advertising for Indiana – advertising your normalness generally creates no reason to escape. Kentucky certainly has a lot of the same reputational issues we do. Yet, in places, it seems you can make an argument for an escape from one's normal. It's the home of thoroughbreds, the bourbon trail, Fort Knox, Louisville Sluggers, barbecue, Mammoth Cave, the Hot Brown – and people who speak differently. They are all very different attractions, but they come together in a Colonel-Sanders-curated sort of way to create, in mind of the normal-life-liver, a thing to escape too. "Hey that's worth a tank or two of gas this weekend." I'm not saying there aren't pleasant things to experience here. But an embrace normalcy is no rallying cry. And certainly it's no hashtag.
    • Tired self-hate
      The state slogan should be "Self hating capital of the world." Honest to goodness, I've never seen a state filled with so many self-hating, negative people than Indiana. I've grown up with it and have never understood it. I'm proud to be from here, and yes, I have lived in other places.
    • Oh Evan
      Evan, In CA I can walk to the beach from my home and office. It's warm. So many great restaurants, many I can walk to. The people I meet are genuinely more friendly, talkative and generally better educated (and can use the proper form of "to" in a sentence). In indy, the best restaurant I can walk to is Recess. Which is also one of the very, very few that can compete with a great passel of places within a nice walk. My day-to-day standard of life in Santa Monica is, frankly, pretty superior to what it is Indianapolis. You pay taxes, but you get fairly amazing city services. And while I may feel different after the next earthquake, at the moment the lyrics to Best Coast's, "The Only Place" seem to apply. :-)
    • Re: Evan
      Evan, there is more to life than the amount in taxes that you pay. If that was the end all be all, you would see companies racing to come to Indiana, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, etc. That is not the case, except for call centers and the such. The high tech, high paying, high education jobs are mostly being created in the high tax locations that you decry.
    • Shame
      It is such a shame that everyday that I come to the IBJ, I leave shaking my head. I guess the silver lining is that we have such a small marketing budget, that too many won't see such an embarrassing slogan!
    • So u want too decrease ur standard of living?
      So Scott you would move too high tax California and decrease your standard of living by 30% or more? Bravo...... The negative naysaying backwards comments are sad here. Get a life people.
    • What?
      And this will project what image exactly?. As far as 'state's reputation for hospitality', well I'm sure almost every state makes that claim (kind of like 'we have the greatest sports fans!) Contrary to popular belief, hospitality/goodness/honesty does not begin and end at state borders.
    • Sad.
      Well, by gosh. Nice to see our tourism board trying to keep IN firmly stuck in the past--as if our legislators weren't already hellbent enough on doing that.
    • More Of The Same...Or Should I Say, Lame?
      One again, the State puts out an RFP asking local marketing agencies to weigh in on the "brand" that is Indiana. Once again, they ask for something that focuses on those things that a tourist or business might not expect to find in Indiana as a way to perhaps message against misconceptions or predispositions about us as being hayseeds that can only make fast left turns and shoot baskets. And once again they reject any strategies that actually meet the strategic marketing objectives they, themselves, outline. Instead, yet again, they come up with another "slogan" (as opposed to a true branded position we can own) that does nothing more than reinforce the stereotypes that a lot of us would like to see countered. "Honest to Goodness" is just another "Wander/Aw Shucks/By Golly" mis-step ("restart your engines" anyone?) that reinforces our position as a more friendly and hospitable Alabama rather than a hotbed for life sciences, innovation, growth and destination surprises. Also, any novice communicator/marketer will tell you that as soon as you have to say "honest," "honestly" or "to be honest," you immediately engender skepticism. We deserve better. Does anyone in the tourism office actually know anything about actual marketing? Or are we going to continue to be saddled with stereotypical "slogans" that some bureaucrat thinks is cute?
      • Better Ideas
        What about "Indiana - Mississippi of the North" or "Indiana - We Hate Gay People and Trains"?
        • NativeHoosier
          Taxpayers paid $100,000 for this slogan? Indiana is known internationally for its Hoosier Hospitality - even though the proposed gay marriage ban would negate that brand. Let's accentuate our positive brand with 'Indiana - home of Hoosier Hospitality' to signal that we welcome EVERYONE.
        • Cost to the state
          For the record, since several people have asked and commented here about how much the state paid Williams Randall ... according to state officials the IOTD paid the Indianapolis-based marketing firm $100,000 last year, and that includes work on this campaign.
        • Committee Decisions
          Reid - Weren't you in the meetings? I think everyone else in the state was. Not to mention the branding agency, which I'm sure is costing upwards of several hundred thousand. Committee decisions are always terrible. This was like a committee decision on steroids and bloated government spending. Perfect storm for disastrous outcomes.
        • A Brand
          It seems to me that a brand is something you work hard to keep consistent and positive. This one seems like a promise that will difficult to keep and hence will result in ridicule. When I think of our State and brands I always gravitate to "Back Home Again..." What's wrong with something simple like that?
        • time to wander away from IN
          Honest to goodness, that's totally embarrassing. Fortunately our tourism budget is so low, very few will see this ridiculous brand slogan.
        • To Todd
          I have residences and offices in Indy and California. I can tell you, the number of my rather highly-paid employees who lobby to work at our office out west represents a fairly major threat to Indiana. Their salaries would no longer be spent in Indiana businesses. Their experience and training will no longer enrich the Indiana employment marketplace. Their significant state taxes would be paid to California. So when you say "no great loss" I think you need to consider the threat our home state's increasingly backward reputation poses realistically.
          • Honest to Boredness
            Yawn. What does this say about Indiana? We're honest and we're good -- ANYONE can say that about their state. What it really says is that were unimaginative and there's no compelling reason to visit here.
          • an alternative slogan...
            It should have been "How do you like them apples?" given the state's history with J. Appleseed and all....
          • Negative or simply observant?
            Todd, call it what you like, but apparently people really ARE taking your advice and leaving the state. After all, how else can we explain why, with the high quality of our universities and the huge numbers of students within them, we still are in the bottom 10 for college attainment? But yes, I suppose a bumpkin image is pretty close to what Indiana already conveys to the outside world, like it or not.
          • Negative People
            Wow, if all you people hate your state that much, then leave! Trust me, no big loss. What a bunch of tools you must be. It is a slogan, and our state is full of good people. If you do not like our politics here than move to the left coast.
          • Honest to Goodness....
            .....unless you're Gay!
          • Lost opportunity
            What a lost opportunity. Indiana has so much to offer visitors and certainly so much more than hospitality even though it is a truly important part of the experience. It isn't the compelling reason to visit and it should not be the only attribute that distinguishes. Like others have written, this just reinforces an outdated perception rather than launches new energy and enthusiasm about a great place to visit.
          • How About...
            How about "Straight people only" or "Welcome to Indiana, where it's still 1950" or "Indiana, the original home of the KKK"...
          • Right on target
            I love it. It's fresh, fun and on-trend. Plus the design piece is clean and a little tongue-in-cheek vintage. Just right!
          • Honest to God?
            . . . no comment.
          • dumb and dumber
            yeah: from "wander Indiana" to "honest to goodness": that will get the tourism department some real juice for its campaign and get lots of people just dying to visit the hoosier state. dumb is the one who wrote the slogan; and dumber are the ones who approved it. anyone hear the sound of a braying donkey??
          • Slogan
            Yeah that will get them coming. Wondering if this is the same committee that eliminated class bball? Kidding. Why not Land of the Indians? That will get the blood flowing. Everybody's response it the same...Welcome to the State of Hicksville and how come Michael Jackson's face is not on it?
          • Wander Indiana
            I remember the late 80s "Wander Indiana" tourism slogan, with the campaign showcasing a riderless classic convertible driving past varied destinations. A comedian pointed out that was Indiana: A drunk driver passed out in the front seat as the car passes by sites (never stopping at attractions) ready for the first telephone pole to crash into. Also, there is who we are advertising in the 5-state area: "Hey, Ohio, come visit Indiana! We have lots of farms and a couple of large cities! Did you hear that, Ohio?"
          • Why Not?
            If I said that when I was growing up I would have been in trouble, because anyone with a lick of sense knows that this is just bending the rules on using the Lord's name in vain. Oh "fudge", did I say that?
          • Agency hands are so tied...
            There still remain some very smart people in the Indianapolis Ad Agency business; I can only infer that IDOT must simply be the world's worst - or at least most thoroughly horseblindered – client.
          • Context
            I'm interested to see the new logo and tagline in context with the rest of the campaign. Hoping the ads promoting the new brand paint a more progressive picture of Indiana. Maybe the new logo and slogan can work with the right look and tone. We'll wait and see...
          • No slogan needed
            The state tourism would probably be better off without a slogan. I remember riding on the bus in Chicago and would see signs for Montana. There wasn't an actual slogan, just pictures of scenery with "Montana" in big letters. Perhaps Indiana should try that route. Then again, I was not a marketing major.
          • HA HA HA HA
            What about "Back to the past Indiana", or Indiana, land of prejudice" perhaps "Indiana Land of Bigotry" to name a few
          • WOW
            Wow, just furthers peoples judgement of how indiana is full of hicks.
          • Oh my GOD!
            Honestly folks, that is the worst slogan I can imagine. It's like naming your son Dick...fine name but it is SO open for abuse. We will be the national laughing stock. Who was at the meeting where that was decided?
            • Slogan is Not a Brand
              The problem with this article is that it does not reflect an understanding of branding. Everything and everyone has a brand. Think of a brand as a reputation. It certainly isn't a name, a logo or a slogan. If your reputation is not what you want it to be the process of rehabilitating your brand is certainly more arduous than a new graphic "look and feel." It is all about your behavior. If you don't understand that you are lost. If you do you will understand that you need to actively manage your brand and taking charge of one that is damaged will require a sometimes tedious and always extended rehabilitation.
            • Doesn't matter
              Ultimately the stupid slogan doesn't matter. There is no such thing as Indiana tourism, unless people are compelled to come because a convention or event is being held here. No slogan will ever make somebody say, "Forget Disneyland! This summer we're going to Martinsville, Indiana!"
            • More:
              Heavens to Betsy, it's Indiana! Yur Darn Tootin' Indiana! Indiana, For Pete's Sake! Skippity-do-dah, Indy!
            • Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do...
              Next up, sooner probably than later because of how counter effective this'll turn out to be: "Aw, shucks!" Runners up: "Gollllllleeeeeee!" "Lickety split!" "Gee willikers!" "Durn tootin'"
            • Ummmmmmm..........
            • Yikes
              What an awful slogan. Way to further the image of Indiana as a bunch of backward yokels.

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