Can (Should) Arizona Rebrand Itself?

Let me set the stage in case you are unaware of the events.  This is certainly not intended to be a definitive accounting of the pros and cons of Arizona’s new immigration law.  It is simply intended to provide some background for context.

  • Arizona passes a law (SB 1070) to address the challenges of illegal immigration in their state.  The new law is supported by a majority of Arizona residents.
  • President O’Bama weighs in and seeks a bipartisan national solution.
  • President O’Bama responds more strongly and raises concerns the law may divide the nation.
  • President of Mexico weighs in with criticism of the new Arizona law.
  • Arizona Governor defends the law and challenges White House to address illegal immigration.
  • The Arizona press tries to educate the public by publishing the full text of SB 1070 so people can more easily get access to it.
  • Americans have mixed reactions to the Arizona law including travel boycotts.
  • Arizona Governor seeks to rebrand the state in order to refurbish tarnished state brand image.
  • The rebranding effort begins.

Core question: Is rebranding the solution to Arizona’s challenge?

Consider This:

  • A brand is a promise.  It sets an expectation of what the experience will be like if you engage with the product, corporation, community or state.
  • To be effective, a brand promise must be relevant, competitive and authentic.
  • Brands take time and money to establish.
  • Public relations crisis management is a proven strategy to handle difficult image challenges.

My Potential Concerns:

There is no doubt Arizona’s actions are under scrutiny by both the American and International communities.   But, is it time for the state to walk away from the equity that has invested in establishing over decades?

Based on an Arizona Travel and Tourism branding guide, Arizona (also know as the Grand Canyon State) can be described by four attributes:

  1. Unexpectedly Exhilarating Signature Scenery
  2. Rejuvenating Open-Air Lifestyle
  3. Timeless Discoveries
  4. Vibrant Variety

Do a Google search using the terms “perception of Arizona” brand, to find the report.

In my opinion, none of the core attributes that define Arizona appear to be relevant to the current controversy.   If these are indeed the differentiating attributes of the state, does it make sense to walk away from them in an attempt to redefine itself and try to make a new promise that will redefine the state image?

Next question: Is Public Relations Crisis Management a better solution?

Let’s start with a definition of what crisis management is all about.  A crisis is defined in an Institute for Public Relations document as “a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly”.  The author makes the point that “A crisis can create three related threats:  (1) public safety, (2) financial loss, and (3) reputation loss”.

There are a number of crisis examples that can be instructional –

Cyanide laced Tylenol

Exxon Valdez oil spill

Wendy’s Chili Hoaxer

Northern Illinois University Campus Shooting

In each of these cases, the companies faced significant business risk and had to manage the challenges effectively.

Does Arizona need Rebranding or Public Relations Crisis Management?

The question is not simply a matter of semantics.  For example, the experts you hire could be very different depending on the choice you make.  Great branding agencies are not necessarily great at public relations and visa versa.  The skill sets, knowledge and resources required for successful implementation of each strategy are very different. The time horizons are different for each choice.  The budgets required are based on the work and will also not be the same.

Which Strategy Do You Think Arizona Should Choose?

Share your thinking and experience.  The intent of asking the question is not to influence Governor Brewer’s decision.  I am confident her decision will be made with the input of experts who are thoroughly familiar with the details of the situation.  The intent is for us to learn from each other how to make these types of decisions if our communities are ever faced with an analogous challenge.

Leave a comment on this post.  Your perspective adds to the educational experience and will help advance the practical understanding of this topic. If you are a Facebook user, become a fan.  If you are on LinkedIn, join the Group.  If you are on Twitter, please tweet about this blog post and start following Brand America.

I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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