Thursday, March 31, 2016

Poor Little Rhode Island

God knows, plenty of people – marketing pros and amateurs alike (and there are a ton of amateur marketers out there, as it’s a rare individual who doesn’t think they can do marketing)  – make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are typos. One company I worked for printed a gazillion brochures for DataWidow. Too bad the product was called DataWindow.

Another time, we left an apostrophe out of a direct mail piece. Too bad it was in the front-page headline, not buried in the text. It wasn’t a major mailing, so we actually printed out a bunch of apostrophes on clear, sticky-backed paper and made the correction that way. It was cheaper than doing the entire piece over.

Sometimes the mistakes are image-related.

In the early days of PCs, a brochure went out with what was obviously an Apple computer on it, when all we supported was the Intel-based PC.

Years ago I had as a client a small software company made up entirely of men who were originally from Poland. When they put together their first web site, they used a stock photograph on the page where they had their bios. The photo showed the usual stock photo diverse set of employees: white man, black woman, Asian woman, Hispanic-looking guy. This image was right next to the list of employees, all of them with distinctly male first names (even if you didn’t know any Polish) and distinctly Polish last names.

I’m not even going to go into the crazy-factory software company that did a very expensive brochure using the Brooklyn Bridge as an image. Unfortunately, it rang a bit too true…

But poor little Rhode Island had two pretty significant boo-boos come to light this week.

First, there was the tourism video that used footage from Iceland:

The video’s intro features a skateboarder outside a glass building and has a narrator saying, ‘‘Imagine a place that feels like home but holds enough uniqueness that you’re never bored.’’ People on social media said: Hey, that’s not Rhode Island — that’s the Harpa concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik. (Source: Boston Globe)

There are plenty of fabulous Rhode Island scenes out there. Even a non-Rhode Islander like myself can quickly come up with a bunch: Newport mansions, plenty of old houses on Providence’s College Hill, farms on the ocean in Tiverton/Little Compton, downtown Providence Water Fire, some harbor filled with sail boats, the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox. These may all be the clichéd views, but surely the production company should have been able to come up with something other than Iceland. I mean, maybe you could borrow a Connecticut or Massachusetts scene and no one would notice the difference. But, but, but…Reykjavik?

I guess Iceland and Rhode Island both have the word “land” in them, but in terms of similarities, Rhode Island is not even an island.

A Rhode Island Commerce Corporation spokeswoman, in confirming later Tuesday that the building in the state’s tourism ad is Harpa, said an editing company used the wrong footage.

‘‘As the Commerce Corporation put this presentation video together, explicit instructions were given to the local firm that helped with editing to use only Rhode Island footage,’’ spokeswoman Kayla Rosen said. ‘‘A mistake was made. Once the mistake was identified, the video was removed.’’

Unfortunately for poor little Rhode Island, the social media crank-fest that sprung up over the wrong-footed video got folks looking at what else state tourism folks might be up to.

Turns out that, on the state’s tourism web site, one of the boasts is that Rhode Island is home to 20 percent of the historic landmarks in the United States, which would certainly lead a would-be tourist to figure that mighty-might Rhode Island punches way above its weight when it come to historic landmarks.

The National Park Service lists more than 2,500 national historic landmarks in the country. Rhode Island has 45, or less than 2 percent. (Source: Boston Globe)

That’s a long way from 20 percent, whether they’re counting the Harpa concert hall or not.

No state has 20 percent. New York and Massachusetts have the most, with 10 percent and 7 percent respectively.

Hmmm. I was going to have a hard enough time figuring out what those 45 historic landmarks in Rhode Island might be, let alone the 350+ in Massachusetts. But I can probably come closer in Massachusetts. Plymouth Rock, Boston Massacre, Old North Church, Lexington Green, Concord Bridge… I’m getting there.

But back to the subject of the day. I really do feel bad for those poor little Rhode Island tourist folks. Marketing’s harder than most folks think it is.

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