Is Oklahoma just OK?

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who doubles as secretary of tourism and branding, thinks the Sooner state is better than just OK. He wants to develop a new brand that moves past the "Oklahoma is OK" slogan that has been used for decades. Pinnell is collaborating with business and community leaders across the state, soliciting their ideas on how a fresh new brand should look. He has enjoyed the public to take a five-question survey on the Oklahoma brand. Go to projectbluesky.ok.gov.

Three observations:

First, branding is the marketing practice of actively shaping your brand. A label, slogan or logo is developed to convey what a product stands for. Product quality must match the label, or no repeat sales. You get the product formula and quality down first and then you develop an appropriate eye-catching label. A decision is made as to where to "position" the product in the marketplace. Will it be expensive and appeal to a small niche market? Will it have broad-based appeal across all demographics? Oklahoma should be getting the formula right even while shaping and positioning the brand. We should do a better job of actively recruiting manufacturers and distributors to the state (and helping existing ones in the state) to create jobs for younger Oklahomans, or we will continue to export our most precious resource: our kids and grandkids. No amount of superb branding will fix that.

Second, Oklahoma has some unique call-outs to place on our label. Those little bursts of information (call-outs) on consumer products are placed there to highlight a unique attribute of the product. "Low-fat," "organic," and "natural" point to a formula characteristic. Easy to use, squeeze bottle, no drip cap, point to a packaging characteristic. Oklahoma's has some obvious call-outs: Centrally located geographically and mild climate; friendly, hard-working people; great natural resources (oil, gas, coal, agriculture); unique history (Land Run), and independent spirit are all characteristics the "Oklahoma is OK" slogan doesn't capture.

Third, in branding, simplicity is paramount. A successful branding campaign must be recognizable, informational, consistent, and tasteful (RICT). Logos must be easy to spot and slogans, catchy and memorable. The brand must deliver quality. Consumers expect recognizable attributes from certain brands, whether consumable or service-related.

Because of the popularity of the musical, many people across the globe think everyone in Oklahoma drives a pickup, wears a cowboy hat and boots, and dodges a tornado every day. By seizing onto a line from the state song as our slogan, we played into the stereotype.

"If we don't define who we are, every other state will. There are 49 other states competing for job and tourism dollars," Pinnell said. Those states are not only competing, but they are currently winning. Oklahoma should be a tourist destination, not a flyover or drive through state.

It is time to update Oklahoma's label and put some "call-outs" on the label that better define who were are, but simultaneously a reformulation of the product should be afoot by state leaders. That will produce long-term success by getting the repeat customers.

Steve Fair is chairman of the 4th District of the state Republican Party.

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