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November 16, 2015
States Need Branding, Too
 
The United States has quickly turned into the transient nation; many people who have grown up in one place in the country now find themselves setting up in a completely different area. There are reasons for that. Jobs take people places, people meet and move together to places, and others still have the confidence and freedom to just pick up and go for a change of scenery.

But the question these people ask must be: Where do we go?

States have, for a while, used their visitor bureaus and city tourism centers to create marketing and advertising campaigns to bring people to the state. When we were looking to leave Pennsylvania for college, the state was suffering significant "brain drain." College students and college-aged residents were leaving the state, depleting the state’s future generations. So in the early 2000s, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh implemented the "Stay" campaign, nearly pleading for people to stay in the state.

Tourism and taxes are two major reasons for states to worry about the amount of people living or traveling through the state, so the image the state puts out across the nation and beyond is very important.

Enter Georgia.

Apparently the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia petitioned Georgia's transportation officials to clean up a mile stretch of the highway and get a sign that states that part of the highway is "adopted by the KKK."

Keep in mind that there have been calls to end Confederate Memorial Day, and the racial climate between whites and minorities this year hasn't been particularly stellar.

Therefore, it is easy to see why Georgia’s officials thought that having a Dept. of Transportation sign recognizing the KKK for cleaning up part of a highway would be an image problem.

With Georgia's interesting past, the rebranding of the state may become a significant problem if the ACLU wins the case in Georgia's Supreme Court.

But Georgia’s officials understood that they had an image — a brand — to protect. And thankfully, they haven’t taken it lightly.

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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