Pick Your ?

So last weekend, Joseph and I are driving over to Pass Christian, MS to attend our niece’s wedding. Hadn’t been to Mississippi for a while on a road trip. Whenever you ride into a new state, there’s always a welcome sign. All of Mississippi’s welcome signs now state “Birthplace of America’s Music.”

This annoys me to no end.

Mississippi Welcome Sign

Mississippi was the birthplace of the blues, certainly not all of American music. Just like Austin is the “Live Music Capital of The World.” The medium is the message: if you convey a message to an audience, it becomes embedded in their consciousness.

Pushing for change is no easy task; OffBeat has worked with both New Orleans and state officials to use music as a marketing tool to attract people to the state. In New Orleans, it’s a no-brainer; western Louisiana (Cajun/Zydeco country), it’s pretty obvious too. Baton Rouge is all about blues, and the northern part of the state is inextricably tied to rockabilly, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and country music. But it still hasn’t sunk in, apparently (wish I had been working with those peeps in Mississippi!). Louisiana is way more of a musical birthplace than Mississippi. But unless you convey the message, the concept does not exist.

So why aren’t we telling potential visitors this constantly, consistently and clearly?

I hate to say this because Louisianians tend to think that they are superior to their Mississippi neighbors, but it appears that Mississippi has had the foresight to do some pretty interesting niche marketing. There are some in the state who don’t like the fact that their state’s new tourism message is now entrenched in promoting their state as an historic center of American music. Personally I think the campaign’s pretty smart, considering that Mississippi certainly doesn’t have as much to offer, tourism-wise, as Louisiana, and especially New Orleans (sorry, friends throughout the rest of the state. It’s just the way it is). If you’d like to see an interesting take on welcome signage, take a look at this blog. Read about Louisiana and Mississippi…

Mississippi’s strategy makes Louisiana look ridiculous, frankly. Our state’s new slogan is “Pick Your Passion.” Huh? Well, ah’m really passionate about hunting quail, and there are hundreds of thousands who will “flock” to Louisiana (NOT) to satisfy this burning passion in “Sportsman’s Paradise” (a previous marketing slogan for the state).

“Pick Your Passion” sounds sophisticated, but it’s way too broad. It would be like putting out an advertising slogan for Las Vegas that says “What Happens Here Is Great.” Compare that with “What Happens Here Stays Here.” Which slogan connotes a party town?

Whoever is coming up with this message appears to be continuing to placate all the tourism bureaus throughout the state who aren’t getting their fair share of a tourism dollar. Same thing is happening in New Orleans.

Wake up and smell the money: The key word in 21st-Century marketing is NICHE. You certainly can’t please all your constituents at one time, but if you use the right marketing and advertising tools, you can increase visitors/tourism as a whole. Then, everyone wins big-time, instead of spreading less wealth around to please the people who don’t really have much to sell in the first place.

My two cents…

  • Times have changed. Transportation providers from the airport for years would offer new visitors, and old, some local music as they rode from the airport. How about a progrem to encourage this. And maybe an FM band of music triggered by a welcome sign at major entries to the city?

  • Jan Ramsey

    There are many, many ways to do this. In Nashville, they’ve found a way to have local personalities and music playing at every crosswalk where there’s a red light! What kind of incentive would work for cab drivers to play local music? Who would pay them? Money is ne of the big problems. If the music community had a strong lobby–like restaurants and hotels do–then we would probably see major changes. I have been pushing for literally years to use music as a marketing tool. IF you do that, restaurants get pissed off; museums holler; preservationists for the most part don’t want music encroaching on their neighborhoods. If enough powerful–and I mean people who can influence change–could get some consensus on this, we could make this happen. Signage is pretty easy.

  • Tom J.

    Same old, same old.  I guess you just have to continue to harp on the subject, Jan.  Maybe one of our
    musically clueless decision-makers will eventually get the message.