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.

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