NORFOLK, Neb. — If Nebraska were a rock band, it’s about to embark on a “No Apologies Tour’’ and it wants you among its groupies.
Sometime in late winter or early spring — about when the sandhill crane migration spectacle soars over south-central Nebraska — the State Tourism Commission hopes to roll out a new state slogan and brand campaign aimed at drawing visitors and their dollars.
But first, it wants Nebraskans and non-Nebraskans to show the way by taking an online image perception survey. A link to the survey is at visitnebraska.com. The deadline for taking it is Thursday.
After researchers and marketers do their slicing, dicing and filtering, the results will help produce a new state slogan and burn a new Nebraska brand into the fabric of the state.
Since 2004, Nebraska’s slogan has been “Possibilities ... Endless.’’ The slogan that never dies — “Nebraska ... the good life’’ — dates to the 1970s.
A brand isn’t a slogan or tag line. Marketers say a brand is the difference between a fizzy brown liquid and Coke or Pepsi, or a coffee and Starbucks, or a city and Santa Fe.
The commission is working with Believable Brands, a research firm, and Bailey Lauerman, an Omaha and Lincoln marketing firm, to define Nebraska’s brand. Bailey Lauerman was the marketing team behind new brands for ConAgra (“Food You Love’’) and Union Pacific (“Building America”).
The Believable Brands researchers cautioned the commission that the feedback gleaned from the surveys won’t always be complimentary, said Kathy McKillip, state tourism director. “They said, ‘You may not like what you get back, but it is real,’ ” she said.
A successful brand will introduce people who have misconceptions about the state to the real Nebraska, said Rich Claussen, general manager of Bailey Lauerman’s Lincoln office.
“We want them to say, ‘Oh, my gosh! You’re kidding me! Nebraska? That’s Nebraska?’ ” he said. “We are going to be compelling.’’
Claussen said Nebraska is a different place than it was even as recently as a decade ago.
“We never would have dreamt that we would host the U.S. Figure Skating Championships or the Olympic Swim Trials,’’ he said, referring to the events held in Omaha. “People aren’t afraid to dream big, and they’re not afraid to share their pride.’’
Claussen said the surveys will yield people’s perceptions of Nebraska’s rational and emotional attributes.
Rational attributes could be a wide-ranging state park system or affordable, great restaurants, he said. Emotional attributes could include such things as a perception that Nebraskans are friendly, humble and not boastful.
Where the rational and emotion attributes overlap will be the essence of Nebraska’s brand, Claussen said.
The brand-building process has been underway for several months. There have been meetings with the governor, state lawmakers and their staffs, state agency officials and business leaders of companies, big and small. Focus groups have been created and quizzed.
Now the commission is encouraging everyone else to participate.
“We especially want to hear from people who’ve never been to Nebraska and why they
haven’t,’’ Claussen said.
Nebraskans should not apologize for being Nebraskans, McKillip said.
“We’re done apologizing for not having mountains. We’re done apologizing for not having beaches,’’ she said. “That’s not who we are.’’
When Nebraskans tell others where they live, they too often qualify it with a phrase something like, “But I lived a little while in Chicago,’’ McKillip said.
When non-Nebraskans meet a Nebraskan and say, “You’re from Nebraska?” McKillip said she would rather hear a Nebraskan reply, “Yeah! You’re missing out!’’
Claussen and McKillip updated the commission on the branding process during a meeting last week in advance of the Nebraska Travel Conference in Norfolk.
“We’ll keep talking with people and never stop listening,’’ Claussen said.