The Nebraska Tourism Commission recently unveiled a surprising new slogan: “Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone.” Unsurprisingly, it has garnered considerable national press for making this bold move. Conventional tourism campaigns rely on extolling the positives of a given location; European slogans include Germany’s “Simply Inspiring” and Norway’s “Powered by Nature,” while in the United States we have Utah’s “Life Elevated” and West Virginia’s “Wild and Wonderful.”
Nebraska’s new slogan takes a different approach, acknowledging that the state doesn’t get attention as a leisure destination or even a significant natural beauty. By turning conventional wisdom on its head, the Nebraska Tourism Commission is attracting attention of a different kind and ultimately achieving its goal.
We’ve explored successful brand slogans and taglines before, noting that “The best taglines accomplish a lot in just a few words. They intrigue us and perk up our ears. They answer our first question about a brand – ‘what do they do?’ – while leaving enough to the imagination that we feel compelled to look deeper. They stick around inside our heads long after we encounter them.” By these measurements, “Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone” is a resounding success. It captures our attention, spurs further research, and is definitely memorable for its radical honesty.
State tourism boards face the same branding problems as any other organization – how do they bring attention to their product, set realistic expectations, and create a call to action? The slogan “Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone” achieves these goals as well. In Forbes, leadership strategist Henry DeVries writes that “Honesty is disruptive,” and disruption of the norm is just what Nebraska (often considered a “boring” state) needed to get national attention.
Rather than mere self-deprecation, Nebraska’s slogan is a challenge to the people who encounter it. If Nebraska isn’t for everyone, we ask, could it be for me? Our perception of Nebraska as boring is challenged by such an unconventional approach. Our idea of what travel is supposed to be is challenged as well. Perhaps most importantly, the slogan challenges us to look more deeply at a destination that we may have previously ignored.
AdWeek notes that “Turning negatives into marketing positives can be a tricky proposition but, when done right, result in magic.” This particular magic trick turns our perception of this “flyover” state on its head.
What about perception inside the state? The Lincoln Journal Star reports that, while some residents have expressed offense, “many people inside and outside the state really like the campaign,” which “has amassed more than $5 million worth of free attention from local and national media” including “The Late Show with Steven Colbert” and the “TODAY” show. Website traffic has tripled since the campaign’s launch, as have requests for travel guides.
The ad campaign that accompanies this new slogan features statements such as “Lucky for you, there’s nothing to do here” and “Another day on the dusty plains” over photographs that reveal the irony of these statements. “Nothing to do” is paired with happy millennials enjoying a leisurely journey down a river at sunset. “Dusty plains” is undercut by a young boy’s bare feet walking over a waterfall.
What the campaign ultimately communicates is that our expectations about Nebraska are wrong. If the campaign had been an earnest, plaintive attempt to change minds, it wouldn’t have attracted much attention. Instead, it embraces irony to reveal unexpected truths and ultimately highlight the state’s full potential as a tourist destination.
Brand builders and marketers should take inspiration from Nebraska’s unconventional yet remarkable approach. Challenging consumer’s expectations by subverting them can result in a powerful message of purpose. In the meantime, does anyone else feel like taking a trip to Nebraska?