|By Jack Brammer, Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 27, 2004 - FRANKFORT -- Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration is asking the public to approve one "brand" or image out of four finalists to attract more tourism and businesses to the Bluegrass State.
Fletcher announced the four finalists at a tourism conference yesterday in Covington and described a nearly monthlong process to select the winner. Over the next four weeks, residents and non-residents will be asked to vote for their favorite Kentucky brand.
Anyone with Internet service -- regardless of whether he or she lives in Kentucky -- will be able to vote in the Survivor-like contest to pick the combined logo and slogan for the state's new identity. Each week the popular vote will result in one finalist being eliminated.
The winning image will be used in an advertising campaign that will be financed from a single $14 million contract granted earlier this year by combining state agencies' existing ad budgets.
Three of the four finalists involve images of horses. All are primarily different shades of blue. They are:
--Kentucky: Unbridled Spirit. The state says it suggests Kentucky is "a place where spirits are free to soar and big dreams can be fulfilled."
--Kentucky: Limitless. This brand spells out that Kentucky is "a place of wide-open opportunity, where professional and personal achievements are not restricted," the state says.
--Kentucky: Make History. The state says this brand indicates that Kentucky "offers a long and proud tradition of extraordinary achievements from seemingly ordinary persons," ranging from Daniel Boone to Muhammad Ali.
--Kentucky: Where Legends Are Born. This brand "provides numerous points of pride that live on today and inspire Kentuckians to create new legends," the state says.
Fletcher e-mailed state employees yesterday, encouraging them to vote "to have one state, one vision and one brand."
The governor, who appeared on The Tonight Show in July to defend Kentucky's image, added, "We want to harness the passion Kentuckians have for our Commonwealth and share that passion with the rest of the world."
The Fletcher administration has no preference on which proposal wins, said Tourism Commissioner Randy Fiveash.
"We started working on this in July, seeking public opinion at both the local and national levels through surveys and focus groups," Fiveash said. "The governor was presented with four choices, and he decided that the public will choose the winner."
In May, Fletcher announced a two-year contract with New West LLC of Louisville and Fitzgerald & Co. of Atlanta to handle the state's marketing. The contract was estimated to cost about $13.7 million, with most of that to buy advertising, state officials said.
Fiveash said tourism groups, businesses and chambers of commerce will be encouraged to use the new brand. "We're not asking anyone to give up their logos but to incorporate the winning one whenever possible," he said.
The easiest way to vote for a brand, Fiveash said, is online at www.kentucky.gov. Votes also will be collected at the state's welcome centers, resort parks, the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort and the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea. People can also mail their preferences to Brand Kentucky, Kentucky State Capitol, 700 Capital Avenue, Frankfort, Ky., 40601.
Fiveash said he has no idea how many votes will be cast, but he said most will probably be online. About 74 percent of Kentuckians have computers and an additional 12 percent have access to one, according to the Frankfort-based Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center.
Three separate voting cycles from now until Nov. 21 will determine the winner.
At the end of each cycle, the finalist with the fewest votes will be eliminated -- "like being voted off the island" in the TV hit Survivor, said Fiveash. The first one ends Nov. 5. Fletcher will announce the winner on Nov. 24.
Fiveash acknowledged that people "from around the world" will be able to vote and that it will be hard to make sure people don't vote more than once each cycle. "We won't know where the voters online are really from, and we won't get the names of people voting at welcome centers and parks," the state official said.
"But that's OK. We trust that people will vote only once each cycle, but we are not policing anyone to find out if they don't. This shouldn't be a problem," he said.
Not everyone agrees.
State Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer accused Fletcher of "outsourcing" the project, a reference to the politically sensitive issue of domestic jobs moving overseas. Garmer noted that an Atlanta ad agency was involved and that "the popular vote to come up with a winner will be not just by Kentuckians but by people from all over the world."
Stephanie French, public relations director for Sullivan University, a business school in Louisville, said she has never heard of a state government letting the public vote on its marketing strategy.
"I don't know if it will work out, but it's an interesting take, especially in light of the uproar over the state license plate," she said, referring to widespread objections in 2002 to Kentucky's so-called "Mr. Smiley" automobile tag. It was designed by a committee from the Transportation Cabinet, Tourism Development Cabinet and the governor's office.
"Maybe that situation would have turned out better if the public had gotten to vote on it," French said.
-----To see more of the Lexington Herald-Leader, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.kentucky.com.
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