Nebraska: Come Be Our Plus One

I suppose there’s no need to pile on. I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes the new “Nebraska Nice” marketing campaign. 

And thanks to social media, we all get to know that no one likes the new ads. Social media has made a portion of our society who do nothing but dwell on the negative all too visible. Before, the only people they could whine to was their immediate friends and anyone dumb enough to listen. Now with Facebook and Twitter, their unending bitching gets amplified over and over.

It’s done without consideration of all the talented people and countless hours that went into developing the phrase “Visit Nebraska….Visit Nice.” Surely all those folks along with the deciders at the Nebraska Tourism Commission think the phrase — along with the abbreviated form “Nebraska Nice” — isn’t just a good idea, it’s a stroke of marketing genius, rather than a timid backhanded compliment bandied about by elderly women gossiping in the canned-vegetable aisle at Hy-Vee:

Oh that Martha, isn’t she nice?

Well, yes, she’s nice, but she’s Nebraska Nice.”

What’s that supposed to mean?"

You just wait and see…

“Nebraska Nice” seems to imply that every state has its own unique personal qualifier, like “New York Angry” or “Florida Stupid” or “California Crazy.” The thought that tourists decide where to go on vacation based on the temperament of a state’s citizenship seems farfetched, even “Nebraska Farfetched.” 

Sure, Colorado has the mountains and the Gulf Coast has the ocean and Utah has miles and miles of colorful, rugged bike trails, but aren’t the people who live in those states a bunch of pricks? In addition to that, doesn’t everyone need a break from all the assholes they’re surrounded by in their home states? Forget about bountiful natural resources, escape to a land whose finest quality is the niceness of its people. 

I question whether being “nice” is a commodity uniquely Nebraskan, and if the term actually applies. I just assumed considering all the jerks I meet here on a typical weekend, the slogan must have been developed by an advertising agency from outside the state whose chief “creatives” were overwhelmed by kindness when they came to visit Omaha for the brainstorming meetings. But no, the fact is the slogan was developed right here by an in-state agency that apparently couldn’t find one other state quality they could center the marketing campaign around.

The most common question among those who hate the new phrase (which is everyone) is how the Tourism Commission could turn its back on something as golden as “The Good Life.”

Like the Cornhuskers and “The Beef State,” we all grew up with The Good Life and think it’s a phrase that’s not only unique, but unrivaled by any other state slogan. Transplants from other states, however, don’t get “The Good Life.” To them it sounds odd and awkward, not to mention brazenly “in your face” to every neighboring state whose citizen’s lives apparently aren’t “good.”

“Aksarben” is another one of those unique Nebraska phrases that leave recent transplants flummoxed. It usually takes a few months until they realize Aksarben isn’t the name of a nearby lake or mountain range and surely isn’t the last name of a state founding father. When I reveal the mystery behind the made-up word, their reaction is universal: “You’ve got to be shitting me!

Back to Nebraska Nice and its angry public reception. The only thing I hate more than bad ideas are jerks who point out bad ideas without offering a suggestion of their own. With that, let me share this idea:

No one comes to Nebraska to enjoy its natural resources. We don’t have mountains or oceans. Sure, we have lakes, but every state in the union has lakes. Yes, there’s Chimney Rock, but have you ever met anyone who travelled to Nebraska just to see that eroding stone tower? 

The only reason people come to Nebraska other than to visit relatives is to attend special events. Think about it. The College World Series. Berkshire Hathaway Weekend. The Olympic Swim Trials. Husker football games.

Let’s build on that. Let’s try to get even more of those big-draw ticketed events throughout the year even if it costs us up the ass. And then let’s market the hell out of it with a phrase that speaks to a new generation of tourists: 

Nebraska: Come Be Our Plus One.

I can see the TV commercials now — shots of people handing over tickets as they push through turnstiles, sitting with their giant foam fingers in Ameritrade Ball Park, standing on the floor of CenturyLink Arena surrounded by giant banners with Warren Buffett’s wizened face emblazoned on them. “Come Be Our Plus One,” says an earnest stock trader. At night clubs and concerts and the Maha Music Festival, fans yelling over the crazy disco beat “Come Be Our Plus One!” The phrase even works for the great outdoors — a nerdy birder wearing binoculars as Sandhill Cranes are about to take flight whispers: “Come Be Our Plus One;” a fisherman stands in a tranquil lake in hip-waders waves his leathered paw and coaxes in a deep Midwestern voice, “Come Be Our Plus One.” 

OK, maybe the phrase is a little confusing and jargony, but it’s something to consider in six months when the new campaign fails to gain traction. And the best part, I’m letting you have it for free, just because I’m Nebraska Nice.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com

posted at 09:02 am
on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

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