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The Anatomy of a Disastrous State Branding Campaign

After Rhode Island’s epic screw-up, a five-step guide to doing better.
A view of Newport, Rhode Island.
A view of Newport, Rhode Island.Flickr/Artur Staszewski

“Cooler & Warmer.” It took me roughly 30 minutes of reading about Rhode Island’s new tourism catchphrase to realize that “cool” is a double entendre—as in, the occasional temperature of the Ocean State, but also “hip and awesome.” And I still didn’t quite get it? This was not a good sign. I may be dense, but lordy, was I not alone.

“My first impression was like ‘what?’” a Providence-based marketing executive told the Boston Globe on Wednesday, two days after the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s nearly $3 million tourism campaign went live. “I didn't get it and, actually, I found out afterwards that a lot of people didn't get it,” a local real estate agent told NPR.