WisBusiness: State spent $250,000 on work affiliated with new tourism slogan

By JR Ross


The state Department of Tourism spent $251,306 to create the “Live Like You Mean It” slogan and logo when costs like research and branding for the platform are figured in, about five times more than initially estimated, according to records obtained by WisBusiness.com affiliate site WisPolitics.com.

State brand manager Sarah Klavas said those costs weren’t included in the $50,000 estimate the Tourism Department released when the slogan and logo were unveiled to widespread criticism because they covered work that went well beyond creating “Live Like You Mean It.”

That included things like collecting input on what makes Wisconsin unique, holding focus groups and creating input on what makes the state stand out. All that went into “Originality Rules,” which is the platform for the new Tourism slogan and logo.

“A logo and a theme are just one small part of an overall brand strategy,” Klavas said.

When the new slogan and logo were unveiled in March, the state said it paid about $50,000 to contractor Red Brown Kle to come up with both.

The documents WisPolitics obtained through an open records request show the state paid the firm $55,730 for its work on the project and another $1,500 to a subcontractor under RBK for illustrating the logo of a figure doing a cartwheel.

The records also show $194,000 in work during fiscal year 2008 by noted Wisconsin branding expert Lindsay, Stone and Briggs for things like gathering input on what makes Wisconsin attractive to consumers, preparing presentations on that feedback to various stakeholders in the state’s tourism industry and identifying groups to target with the new brand.

Klavas said the brand created through that work goes well beyond the Tourism Department and is available to agencies like Commerce as they try to sell the state.

But the slogan and logo were largely panned upon unveiling. Among the reasons: “Live Like You Mean It” had been used before by private companies in advertising slogans. The effort also was recently ridiculed by a New York Times columnist.

Klavas said the new logo and slogan may change to varying degrees in the future, much like Pepsi Co. regularly changes the designs of its cans. But the “Originality Rules” platform derived from the work would be in place for the indefinite future, something she compared to the way Nike has kept the swoosh logo throughout its history.

Sen. Jim Holperin, former Tourism secretary and chair of the Transportation, Tourism, Forestry and Natural Resources Committee, said he hasn’t heard much feedback lately in his tourism-heavy district. The Eagle River Democrat said people are either indifferent to it or have accepted it as a good marketing tool and moved on.

He said the records WisPolitics obtained were the first he’d heard of other costs associated with developing the logo and slogan. He said it wasn’t a surprise considering the time Tourism has put in on the project.

“Quite a bit of careful study went into it,” Holperin said. “People will tell you that branding is a science with a little bit of art thrown in. I think the department was diligent in trying to use that science and developing something that would be kind of a utility brand for every agency.”