The Ocean State’s new slogan, just announced today, is “Rhode Island: Cooler & Warmer.” What does it mean? Is it about our temperature? Our climate? Is it about the waters of our Narragansett Bay? Is it about how our economy blows hot and cold?
No, it is about hip and friendly. Get it? Cool = hip. Warm = friendly. Rhode Island is hip and friendly.
While cool and warm are synonyms for hip and friendly, the synonymity is not obvious. Unlike the current slogan “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island,” and unlike “I ♥ NY,” “Cooler & Warmer” is not clear or direct. A slogan that must be explained has already failed. Effective slogans build on existing attitudes. No thought associated with Rhode Island arises in the Rhode Island mind, let alone the out-of-state mind, when “Cooler & Warmer” is heard. “Cool & Warm” might have been better. Or for that matter, why not “Coolest & Warmest”? It doesn’t beg questions as “Cooler & Warmer” does. Cooler and warmer than what? Than California? Cooler and warmer than Connecticut? Sorry. Any way you slice it – hot and cold or hip and friendly – it does not compute. It is a contradiction in terms.
The logo that goes with it ought to be simple and straightforward. But no, it is vague and complicated. In the cynical world of product branding, interpretation is the assassin of comprehension.
“The Biggest Little” is clear and direct because Americans all know which state is the nation’s smallest. “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island” may not impress creative types but it is clear, direct and offers an excellent reason to come to Rhode Island. Our beauty is the Ocean State’s chief competitive advantage. It is foolish to abandon it without a superior slogan in hand. “Cooler & Warmer” is not that superior slogan. It screams “Cooler than thou!” The reaction on social media and news website comment boards has been baffled, almost entirely negative. In the wake of 38 Studios, the need was for a clear slogan that avoided opening the floodgates of cynicism. This slogan is sure to inspire the next @38 Stadiums.
To judge by remarks from the governor and her economic development people, the new slogan and the entire rebranding campaign is like a bad Super Bowl commercial. It tries too hard to impress industry chums even as the meaning sails over viewers’ heads. Those viewers who chuckle at the foolishness of such commercials reflect an instinctive superiority of mind over that of the makers of those self-indulgent ads, and this is the basis upon which Rhode Island’s new ad campaign is likely to be judged.
“Cooler & Warmer” would be too cute by half if it were the least bit cute at all. It is not cute, it is confusing. Good advertising copy can be witty and charming without sacrificing clarity. “Cooler & Warmer” sacrifices clarity without a whit of humor.
Governor Raimondo’s rebranding campaign has spent $5 million on bupkis. She is also about to deep-six another clear, direct and clearly successful state symbol – the light blue Ocean State wave that flows gently across our license plates, carrying our brand across the nation. What’s going on here?
Channel 12 has some hilarious mockery of the new slogan on its website.