The state of Rhode Island recently rolled out a new logo and slogan aimed to invigorate tourism and attract business. In what was meant to be a landmark campaign backed by a $5 million budget, the state checked all the boxes by hiring a world-renowned designer, conducting market research, and enlisting a PR firm to coordinate the launch. The campaign officially launched on March 28, 2016. In less than one week the state’s chief marketing officer tendered her resignation and the first term governor had scrapped the slogan.
So what exactly went wrong? Pretty much everything.
The state launched the campaign with the slogan “Rhode Island: Cooler & Warmer” which was tied to new logo featuring a white sail set across a tri-colored square. A promotional video and website were also released. Within hours a social media backlash began to form and grew louder by the day. Scenes within the promotional video highlighting historic Rhode Island landscapes and activities turned out to be footage from Iceland. Pictures on the new website touting the culinary scene were actually from restaurants in Massachusetts. The slogan was roundly mocked on twitter and satirically photo shopped on Instagram. With each passing day additional social media influencers in the state jumped on the bandwagon bashing the campaign.While the state had hired Milton Glaser, a renowned graphic artist and creator of the iconic “I Love New York” logo, they were criticized for not also leveraging in-state talent from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Even though extensive market research and testing was done, there was nearly zero lead in and groundwork laid prior to the campaign launch. Many officials noted that the majority of residents were unaware of what the slogan stood for, leading many to draw assumptions – mostly humorous. Coupled with the numerous mistakes and lack of presentation, the entire campaign quickly became enshrouded in negativity fueled by social media.
In an effort to stem the damage and re-engage the public, the state has opened up a studio where residents are encouraged to tailor the logo and “make the slogan their own”; the best of which will most likely go to a vote.
FYI “Cooler” was meant to represent the creative and trendy offerings for people to discover and “Warmer” was to represent that residents were unpretentious and accessible.
While the state deserves blame for the mistakes, were they too quick too pull the plug based on the reaction from social media? Or was a quick hook the correct move?
What steps should have been taken through social media prior to the launch to not only engage the public, but also get a sense of what the reaction may look like?