Those of us in the PR business understand the importance of a catchy slogan.
A zingy one-liner can do more good - or harm - than months or years of nuts and bolts PR legwork. Take "flip-flopper," for example. Or "Where's the beef?"
Slogans are especially important for state license plates because, in some cases, it's the only information we have about a place. For example, the Sooner State's tag for many years was, "Oklahoma is OK." In other words, not as good as Hawaii, better than Nebraska. New Jersey just spent some $250,000 developing a new slogan for its car plates, and came up with, "We'll win you over." Maybe. But it sounds a little needy, and, as anyone on the dating circuit knows, that's a turn-off.
Both New Jersey and Oklahoma are somewhat maligned, misunderstood states. For that reason, both have taken a somewhat defensive stance in their proclamations. This is a mistake. As someone who has a background in both places, I think I'm qualified to say that the best course here is to lead from strength.
As you might recall from your grade-school history class, Oklahoma was created from a half-crazed land rush in 1889. Akin to the malls the day after Thanksgiving, plots were thrown up for grabs to a mad rush of shoppers at the sound of a horn. For free! Many of these bargain-hunters were the wretched refuse famously welcomed by the Statue of Liberty: poor, sometimes criminal elements fleeing Europe or the law. OK, then. Go with that theme! I suggest proclaiming this unorthodox heritage with the catch-phrase, "Oklahoma: Proudly built by folks even Australia wouldn't take."
As for Jersey, you my friends, as well, should embrace your reputation and bear it with honor. Don't pretend to be a warm, fuzzy, feel-good state like Virginia. Gloat over your loud, big-haired status. "We'll win you over?" Fuggedabout it. Try this: "New Jersey: What Are You Lookin' At?" Or, "Jersey: You'll Only Feel A Slight Sting." A wise man, it may have been my math teacher, advised turning minuses into pluses. Therefore, "New Jersey: Let Us Show You Our Tattoos." Or perhaps, "Jersey: What Happens Here... Should Never Happen At All."
By the way, it's not too late to send in your own suggestions. Be creative. This is for the car tags, people. And if I have my way, they will read, "Jersey: The New California, Only A Lot Colder."
- Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer