The Big Squeezy. So A-Peeling. Orange You Glad You Came?
Orange County is a tourist destination in search of an identity--or at least a catchy slogan.
In a country where every state has a motto, children are raised on TV jingles and even the money says "In God We Trust," smart marketers know that catch phrases are key. "I (Heart) New York" and "Virginia Is for Lovers" proved a boon for marketing and merchandising in those tourist hotbeds.
That's why the newly formed Orange County Tourism Council is trying to craft a verbal hook as part of its efforts to lure visitors to the area.
"If we came up with the right thing, it could be a real distinguishing mark," said retired Disneyland President Jack Lindquist, a tourism panel member who is coordinating the group's marketing efforts. "Trouble is, there are [lots of] other Orange counties around the United States. Plus we're already locked into a color and a fruit, so it's a tough creative challenge."
Formed in April, the tourism council is the newest arm of the Orange County Business Council, the area's largest business development organization. The mostly volunteer group comprises a slew of local tourism heavyweights who are pushing a collective, regional approach to marketing after years of competing against one another.
The council is intent on carving out a distinct identity for Orange County from the sprawl of greater Los Angeles. Its goal is to raise $1 million in advertising funds from the private sector by the end of 1996.
A memorable slogan and eye-catching logo would undoubtedly speed those efforts. So Lindquist has tapped executives from local advertising and public relations firms, who are laboring for free to craft that million-dollar sound bite. The 12-member group had its first brainstorming session on Tuesday and will reconvene in a few weeks.
"A logo or tag line is really the banner that everyone marches behind in promoting an area," said Dave Korobkin, a volunteer sloganeer and head of Korobkin & Associates Inc., an Irvine-based marketing communications firm. "It has to create an identity and it has to be memorable. . . . We don't have a huge budget like Las Vegas or other places so we're going to have to be clever with this."
Part of the challenge of marketing Orange County, the experts say, is that it contains no major city to center its campaign on. Consequently, many potential visitors think of Orange County as an extension of Los Angeles with all the attendant problems--or that place where Mickey Mouse lives.
"People have no idea where Orange County is or what it is," said Jim deYoung, retired founder and creative director of the Irvine advertising agency dGWB. "When I'm traveling and tell people I'm from Orange County, it means nothing. When I mention Disneyland, it's instant recognition. It's a very difficult problem."
The county's high-profile bankruptcy didn't help matters either. Although it's not the type of thing to deter someone from visiting, it's not exactly a drawing card either, and it undoubtedly left some Americans with their only lasting impression of the place.
Meanwhile, convincing some locals to embrace a slogan, as hard-boiled New Yorkers did with the "I (Heart) New York" campaign, could take some doing in Orange County, whose denizens are decidedly less jingoistic.
What to do? Tourism brass say there's a definite information gap about where and what Orange County is. But explanatory slogans such as "Orange County: We're Back in the Black," or "We're Not L.A.--Honest," aren't exactly ringing endorsements of the area.
Korobkin says offbeat humor or an emotional appeal would probably work better in pitching Orange County.
"We have to use guerrilla tactics," Korobkin said. "First we grab their attention. We can clear up all the misconceptions later."
Perhaps the biggest advantage--and disadvantage--of crafting an image for Orange County is the name itself. Much like the Big Apple, the name carries a natural visual association that's pleasant and easy to remember.
On the downside, the fruit/color scheme is ubiquitous, has limited creative possibilities and is a wellspring of lousy puns. And while there is only one Big Apple, there are seven states besides California with their own Orange County.
Tom Wilck, partner in Irvine-based Nelson Communications Group and a volunteer with the tourism council's slogan team, says the group tortured each other with citrus word play at Tuesday's session. Still, he said, "orange" is likely to figure into the final product.
"Although it's tempting, we can't change the name of the county," Wilck said. "If you can't get around it, you might as well emphasize it."
One thing Orange County's creative team can count on is plenty of competition from destinations such as Las Vegas, which are spending big dollars to get their messages out. Las Vegas will spend nearly $50 million next year on tourism advertising and promotion, according to Rob Powers, spokesman for the city's Convention and Visitors Authority.