News From Terre Haute, Indiana


February 14, 2014

Casting a new tourism net

Marketing effort makes Hoosier ‘authenticity’ brand’s focus

TERRE HAUTE — Williams Randall, a Terre Haute-based marketing firm, is behind the state’s latest branding effort: “Honest-to-Goodness Indiana.”

The Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD) unveiled the new consumer brand Wednesday, replacing the former brand: “Restart Your Engines,” which was launched in 2006.

Indiana Tourism officials “wanted something that would promote the whole state,” said Charlie Williams, president and founder of Williams Randall Marketing.

“I think [Honest-to-Goodness Indiana] takes us into every corner of the state,” Williams said.

That was the idea, said McKenze Rogers, manager of client services at Williams Randall, which has been the state’s tourism marketing company since 2008.

For folks living far from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the “Restart Your Engines” brand seemed too centered on Indianapolis, tourism officials around the state told the Indianapolis Business Journal. The new brand is designed to tell dozens of “undertold” stories from around Indiana, Rogers said. “It had to represent all parts of Indiana, be respectful of the past but with an eye to Indiana’s future,” she said.

Full-page advertisements in national magazines, such as Midwest Living, Cooking Light and Food Network Magazine, are set to appear later this year, Rogers said. The brand is already visible on the Indiana Office of Tourism website. It is tilted at a folksy, 16-degree angle, a (very) subtle nod to Indiana’s bicentennial approaching in 2016, according to an IOTD news release.

Initial media coverage of the new brand this week echoed comments from critics who seemed to find it a little too “aww shucks” and folksy. However, the brand emerged from months of research, discussions with tourism and other officials and surveys involving more than 8,000 people, including people living in targeted cities, such as Chicago, Louisville and Cincinnati. As it turns out, “Honest-to-Goodness” captures what many people understand to be the best of Indiana, the research found.

The brand “needed to speak to the realness, the genuineness and the authenticity of our people, our places and experiences,” Rogers said. Indiana’s best assets, as emerged from the research, are a sense of genuineness, authenticity and hospitality, she said.

As the brand rolls out, it will help highlight undertold stories from around the state, Rogers said. Some of those include the state’s award-winning wineries, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, covered bridges in Parke County, mountain biking trails in Brown County and Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus.

It’s not known how long “Honest-to-Goodness Indiana” will remain the brand of the state, Rogers said. Nor is it easy to know whether the brand will catch on and become as well-known as tourism brands adopted by other states over the years, such as “Virginia is for Lovers,” “California: Find Yourself Here,” or “Delaware: Small Wonder.” (Other state slogans, such as “Idaho: Great Potatoes, Tasty Destinations” or “Oklahoma is OK” may have enjoyed a little less success.)

Indiana tourism officials hope that, over time, the full meaning and impact of “Honest-to-Goodness Indiana” will come into its own as it is applied in TV, radio, billboards and even T-shirts and coffee mugs. The idea is to capture the feel of the state in a way that can be applied to every tourist and commercial attraction from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan, officials said.

As Rogers told the Tribune-Star Friday:

“Maybe not everybody understands it yet, but we definitely hope that, in the story-telling that comes out, people will be able to nod their heads and say, ‘I get it and I’m excited to be a part of this state.’”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or

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