Tourism ad campaign: Gasp, horror

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By Harold Morgan

For cattle growers, branding has a specific meaning.
For the rest of us, not so much. For citizen-consumers, branding, like sustainability, is a word bandied about with little attention to meaning.
As a topic, branding gets attention these days around New Mexico because the Department of Tourism has just selected Vendor Inc. of Austin, Texas, to execute a $2 million advertising campaign “based on the brand essence” the department sees for the state, says Monique Jacobson, Taos native and tourism secretary.
A brand is made up of a set of characteristics that, together, produce warm feelings from consumers for the thing, person, firm, whatever.
Those warm feelings lead people to interact with the brand by, say, buying or perhaps voting, as in the case of politicians.  
New Mexico’s brand has been “Land of Enchantment” forever. At one point the enchantment frustrated me. It’s vague, after all. Marketing needs specifics.
Further consideration brought the conclusion that “enchantment” is the perfect moniker for New Mexico.
A problem is that enchantment’s “brand essences” — mountains, Hispanic villages, pueblos — ignore the energy-producing and cattle-growing southeast.
I hope Vendor’s execution of Jacobson’s “brand essence” doesn’t get weird. See Vendor’s website for a disquieting hint in the weird treatment of the partner photos.
New Mexico history offerings consist of one ninth-grade semester, a year-long seventh-grade social studies focus and possibly a fourth-grade emphasis. (My sources disagree about the fourth grade.) Most important, one source says that while “we are trying, it just doesn’t always stick.”
One of Oklahoma’s few virtues is (or was) teaching history and pride. I had Oklahoma history in the fourth and sixth grades and would have had it again had we not moved to New Mexico.
To the extent we say anything to ourselves about the state, the story frames around conflict and sometimes attempts to invoke the victimhood of today’s political correctness. An example is the recent Public Broadcasting “American Experience” show about Billy the Kid.
What is “social studies” anyway?
A few days ago New Mexico lost one of those citizen leaders— Ben Alexander of Hobbs — who brought the state a long way.
I worked with Alexander on a couple of projects. Very solid. Talented. Committed. No pretense. One of the good guys.
In remembering Alexander, my mind went to the Albuquerque ad agency owner who whined about the tourism contract going out of state.
Even with a five percent preference (i.e., subsidy) the locals couldn’t compete on merit, as defined by the tourism department’s review committee. Well, tough.
New Mexico will always be crunched between Arizona, which has the Grand Canyon, and Texas, which has size and is Texas.
But New Mexico has the enchantment based in exoticness — people, history, land.
And if Santa Fe is an adobe Disneyland, so what? It works.
Just don’t forget the southeast.

Harold Morgan
© 2012 New Mexico News Services