“Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” Great tourism slogan, and not too corny.

Your job is to get tourists to visit Nebraska. What would you do next, assuming suicide or changing identities aren’t viable options? I like what the Nebraska Tourism Commission did, even though their choice of tagline is upsetting people. The question is, what do they do with it now?

As the Washington Post reported, the commission will be devoting a $450,000 tourism budget to a campaign with the tagline:

Honestly, it’s not for everyone.

The Post article quotes a bunch of Nebraskans who are unhappy with the campaign, and with the fact that an agency in Colorado came up with it.

But let’s assess the situation here. First off, Nebraska is not a tourist destination. For four years in a row, it has placed last on a survey of states that tourists want to visit. I asked the TripAdvisor app about things to do in Nebraska and got this:

So if you are the tourism director for Nebraska, there is no place to go but up.

There are four states in America that I have never visited. Nebraska is one of them, along with Montana. North Dakota, and Alaska. Unless Warren Buffett needs my advice on writing, I’m not likely to go there.

So, risking the enmity of a whole bunch of people in Nebraska, I’m going to deploy my ignorance in analyzing its tourism problem and slogan.

The job of a tagline is to intrigue. It should also represent the truth. Most of the truth about Nebraska is boring. It has corn. The previous slogan was “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice.” That didn’t work. (Plus, it might send people to a beautiful town in the south of France by mistake.)

Iowa has the Field of Dreams. Kansas has The Wizard of Oz. What does Nebraska have?

So if I’m writing this slogan, here’s what I do:

  1. Get people to pay attention. This slogan does that.
  2. Show some cool stuff in Nebraska that people don’t know about. They’re on their way to doing that, too. Here are some samples:
Nebraska Tourism
Nebraska Tourism

What comes next? Well, with a slogan like this, they can have some fun. They can show some of the cool things nobody realizes are in Nebraska. Like Carhenge.

Photo: Stephen Canon via Fiickr

Or the world’s largest ball of stamps:

Photo: Graham Brenna

At this point all of my readers in Nebraska are very upset. (I thought you were supposed to be nice!) But face it. If you want people to pay attention, nice isn’t the way to do it. Carhenge and stamps and incredibly beautiful natural vistas are.

Proving this is the right slogan, with ROAM

Let’s take apart this slogan, using ROAM.

Readers: The target audience here is not people in Nebraska. It is people outside Nebraska. If this works for them and the tourists come in, the Nebraska businesses will be happy.

Objective: What do you want these readers to know? You want them to notice that there is more to Nebraska than corn and a unicameral nonpartisan legislature. To do this, you need to get them intrigued. When you say “Honestly, it’s not for everyone,” people’s response is “Oh yeah? Well, I’m not everyone. Maybe it’s for me.” And that’s a start.

Action: You want the reader to want to learn more about Nebraska. Now, tell the truth. Before this, did you want to learn more about Nebraska? After this, don’t you want to know more about what’s there, at least a little? Mission accomplished.

iMpression: This is the tough part. You don’t want to leave people thinking that you wasted their time, or that Nebraska is nothing more than a top-five producer of soybeans. On the other hand, you don’t want them believing it’s full of weird, nasty people either. (Maybe the ball of stamps shouldn’t be at the top of the list of promoted attractions after all.) This is where the slogan will pay off, if the agency can mix “nice” and “cool” and “beautiful” in the right proportions.

Maybe I’ll ask my wife and two college-age children if we can go to Nebraska for our next vacation.


But I did think about it. And if the Sage of Omaha asks for my help, I’ll certainly poke around and see what else there is to do there.

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  1. From your travel analyst friend…

    I find the new slogan brilliant. Nebraska hit it out of the ballpark (maybe it landed in Iowa’s Fields of Dreams). It stops the reader/viewer and makes them go “huh, did I read that right?” It provokes. It challenges. And it’s highly, highly memorable. In an era where social media can define a destination, this slogan works perfectly. Plus, a key thing about travelers today is that they don’t want what “everyone” likes or does — they want experiences that they consider to be unique, authentic, and meaningful.

    I mean, what were the other options? “Nebraska, the state between Iowa and Colorado”? “Nebraska: When you want to do nothing but nap on your next vacation”? Nebraska: Becuase you can’t visit all 50 states without visiting us”? Didn’t think so.

    BTW, I’ve been to Omaha. Its a neat city with a cool “old town” near the downtown area (think repurposed warehouses, older architecturally interesting buildings, etc.). Food’s good, and there’s a burgeoning craft cocktail scene there.

    And yes, the people are nice. Extremely nice, actually.

    1. I, too, visited Omaha and loved it for the reasons you state. There is a feeling of spaciousness and calm, both qualities I appreciate. The city blocks are long and the streets wide. The restaurants are wonderful. My last visit was in the winter. I imagine how lovely it would be in the summer.

  2. The sleepy, lesser known Colorado ski resort town of Crested Butte used a similar tactic quite successfully by running an ad that said …

    Vail boasts that their ski lifts can handle 50,000 skiers a day. But who wants to ski with 49,999 other people?

    Crested Butte, the last great ski resort in Colorado.

  3. Well, personally, I was voting for “Nebraska: Where Shar is from.” But I really like this one too. It dares people not to be the ones who miss such a hidden gem! And it is also true to the resident attitude, that we don’t really want *everyone* learning how good the life is there…they might move in and spoil it!

    Josh, let me extend a personal invitation to make the journey. I grew up in the panhandle of the state. Here: https://www.nps.gov/scbl/index.htm

    My folks are still there and they take the “visit nice” slogan very seriously.