the marketing of states

while tourism campaigns come and go, one can learn much about a state's brand simply by viewing its flag.

alabama's flag has a great defiance to it. no words, just a simple red X. this flag design is a plate of biscuits and gravy better than their original design, and was later credited with influencing the wrong answer symbol from family feud.

alaska's flag looks like it was designed by a seventh grader. and in fact, it was. a brilliant design, it doesn't just use symbolism from the state, but rather tries to mark the entire universe as its own. on one hand, it's surprisingly aggressive. on the other hand, it helps explain sarah palin.

arizona's flag doesn't look like a state's flag - it looks like a nation's flag. such bold colors, such a confident design. "is the sun rising or setting?" one might wonder. judging from this flag, "it's none of your goddamn business" is the reply. if i were to wake up tomorrow and read how arizona has turned rogue and declared war on california, i would almost entirely credit the flag as the instigator.

arkansas' flag should be receiving royalties from the makers of every vegas neon sign, for clearly it's been influential. the only element this design is missing is an exclamation point. when it first came out, there was a snipe in the corner reading "just joined union!!!" you can read about the various versions and heated debate regarding whether there should be 3 stars or 4 near the name, and should it be 2 on top or 2 on bottom or 1 on top and 3 on bottom or... in advertising, we call this polishing a turd.

california's flag has a nice feistiness to it, what with the wording "california republic." having grown up in california without ever seeing a bear anywhere, the flag seems to symbolize false hope. the star represents the stardom of hollywood, and the bear represents the ultimately fruitless pursuit. personally, i liked the caveman-like original version better.

oops, my bad.

colorado's flag was the creation of a self-taught designer who tried for years to win a competition on crowdsourcing sites like crowdspring and lime exchange, but kept coming up short. his mom, feeling bad for him, used her state connections through her job at the colorado agri-tourism board to get him the state flag assignment. and that's how colorado got its flag design.

connecticut's flag gives us a little latin - finally. (what's a flag without a latin phrase on a ribbon?) the phrase means "He who transplanted still sustains." the people of connecticut have no idea what that means, but what's a brand without a little mystery, a little intrigue? special note should be taken of the grapes featured in the design, symbolic of the great connecticut-ian wineries.

delaware's flag seems like it should have a "for placement only" disclaimer on it, for it looks un-finessed. i know, i know - they were the first state, give 'em a break. but look at the colors alone - it looks like it was created with the 64-colors crayola box, only 20 of the colors (many of them key) were missing.

florida's flag is what happens a neighboring state flag's design (alabama's) is stolen by government officials, and modified by a number of committees. the seal features a Native American Seminole woman scattering flowers, a steamboat, a cabbage palmetto tree and a brilliant sun. these are gifts given to football recruits of Florida State University. also of note: alphabetically speaking, they're the first ones to mention God, unless they meant to say "good" but had a typo.

georgia's flag could be far worse, what with all the iterations it's gone through. this latest design was approved in 2004. it seems georgia doesn't know how to handle its sometimes embarrassing history. i refer specifically to the Tri-Star Cremetorium, where that guy was just letting the bodies stack up, remember that? personally, i'm thankful they chose to leave it off the flag. it'd only damage the brand.

the hawaii (or as it's spelled locally, h'a'w'a'i'i') flag is longer than other flags in the union, representing the longboards first used to surf. the design of Great Britain's flag is depicted in the corner to remind the people of hawaii that, with the exception of a minor dust-up in 1843, Great Britain has been hawaii's protectorate or as the locals say, "beyotch."

idaho's flag design is as you'd expect (a seal and a ribbon), and delivering expectations is not a bad thing for a brand to do. idaho being a pretty straight-forward state, the seal is marked with the words "great seal of the state of idaho." the ribbon underneath eschews Latin phrases and instead says "state of idaho" just in case you forgot what you read a second ago in the seal. there is no marking on the back to identify it as "back of idaho flag" - an opportunity missed, i'd say.

illinois' flag is heavy on the symbolism of the state. the eagle symbolizes the governor, and the shield and ribbon represent its bribes. (note, it can't possibly carry any more.) the governor (or "eagle") sits high above the citizens (or "blades of grass") lording over them. the sun's rays are being diverted before reaching the people (where the sun's rays are being diverted to and who exactly is behind it are both open to interpretation). the water symbolizes the feeling that its citizens are trapped here.

indiana's flag is an unexpectedly nice surprise, design-wise. the 18 stars represent the states that were admitted to the union before indiana. in local parlance, that means indiana finished 19th. considering that junior's only in 16th in the current NASCAR standings, 19th isn't so bad.

iowa's flag design takes its color scheme from the french flag as a homage to its ancestral lands. the word "iowa" means "where cornfields do (deux) not end." like its cornfields, the ribbon on the design goes on and on. note the eagle's neck craning as it struggles to carry the ribbon. the typeface of the word Iowa was taken from the original macintosh fonts. oui oui.

kansas' flag typography follows the kansas tradition of making things unnecessarily large. (note the center court logo at kansas' famed allen fieldhouse.) while the net take away is that people in kansas are yelling at you, this is simply not the case. in that sense, this is perhaps one of the most misleading state flags.

the kentucky flag's most prominent feature is of two people slow-dancing awkwardly, reminiscent of a 7th grade dance when the DJ starts bringing it down a notch with Spandeau Ballet's "True." the words "commonwealth of kentucky" droop uneven with the circle image, similar to crepe paper streamers at the dance. and continuing with the 7th grade dance motif is a trite motto (in this case, "united we stand, divided we fall"). bottom line: the kentucky brand = a 7th grade dance. it's a little awkward when you're there, but you'll always remember it fondly. kudos to kentucky for an unexpectedly effective positioning.

louisiana's flag is, appropriately for its brand, downright racy. it depicts a bird - if my ornithologist memory serves, i believe that's an Eastern Brown Pelican. anyway, the pelican is removing its top to show off its chest feathers to some screaming college-aged birds. certainly not my cup of tea, mind you, but appropriate for the brand.oh, there are also some words below, but with the action going on above, it's likely no one will read them.

maine's flag is unique in that it was the first state to use a "color by numbers" template. still, the flag has been influential. its motto, "dirigo" appears on the top and has inspired a whole state full of businesses including Dirigo Health, Dirigo Management, Dirigo Baseball Club, Dirigo Coon Cats, the Dirigo Pines Retirement, and the famed Dirigo & Dirigo, specializing in personal injury since late 2008.

maryland's flag should be sent to everyone who ever griped about the london 2012 Olympic logo. if the flag's meaning is to be interpreted correctly, you are more likely to get into a fistfight with someone in maryland than in any other state in the union (including puerto rico).

massachusett's flag is also rife with violent undertones. it features a native american front and center, which seems respectful, but above him is a muscular arm with a sword reaching down to lop off his head, which doesn't seem so respectful. adding to the aggression is the state's motto: "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." personally, if i'm doing any new england travel, i'm taking the long way around through new hampshire.

michigan's flag was designed in 1865, yet was amazingly clairvoyant. here it is 144 years later, and the state's population is once again largely made up of moose and elk. it being an accommodating territory, the state flag features not one but THREE mottos: E Pluribus Unum (From many, one), Tuebor (I will defend), and Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice (If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you). i'm not sure how those translate in elk language.

minnesota's flag is very nice.

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