New Oklahoma brand only a start
Oklahoma has a new brand, following several months of collaboration by experts in areas such as public relations, advertising and graphic design. The work of truly rebranding the state, however, will take many years and more than splashy campaigns.
The new logo is indeed eye-catching — a multi-colored design that’s intended to highlight Oklahoma as a hub of the central United States. It’ll be found on state agency websites and “Welcome to Oklahoma” highway signs, and folded into tourism efforts.
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who led this project, said those involved were charged with developing “a cohesive, new brand for Oklahoma that best represents our heritage and history, our booming industry, our beautiful, one-of-a-kind vistas, and most importantly, our greatest asset — our people.”
A new tagline, also destined for promotional materials, is “Imagine that.” It’s intended to highlight the state’s unique assets to out-of-staters, but should serve as a guide for policymakers and everyday Oklahomans alike.
Imagine, for example, how much stronger Oklahoma would be if more of its young people finished high school, then earned a post-secondary degree or certificate. Only one-fourth of Oklahoma adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or more, compared with 32% nationally. And, the need continues to grow for good-paying skilled laborers, jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.
Oklahoma’s low cost of living makes it attractive for homeowners and businesses. But imagine how much more attractive it might be if companies had a deeper and broader pool of talent from which to choose?
Imagine a state whose child welfare agency wasn’t regularly swamped with reports of abuse and neglect by adults and caregivers. New practices within the Department of Human Services, as noted in a recent op-ed by Director Justin Brown, aim to help families before crises occur, and that’s encouraging. But Oklahoma’s high rates of poverty, drug abuse and teen pregnancy — generational issues — present a daunting challenge.
Imagine if Oklahoma’s incarceration rate wasn’t among the highest in the country, as it has been for so many years. What if the state someday made the sorts of consistent investments that are needed to help those struggling with mental health issues — which contribute greatly to criminal behavior and thus to our crammed prisons?
Imagine a Legislature where lawmakers spend most of their time working on pro-growth, productive policy measures instead of ideology-driven bills that are pleasing to their base but ultimately don’t add up to much. This happens in every state legislature, of course, but Oklahoma can ill afford the black eye that some of these efforts inflict.
Gov. Kevin Stitt is bullish on the Sooner State and wants others to be as well. He said he sees Oklahoma not as a flyover state but “a destination.” Oklahoma certainly has much to offer, and this branding effort should help sell that idea. But Oklahoma also has much work to do to become the state we all would like to imagine it can be.