The administration of Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo was in for a shock on Thursday, March 28, when it unveiled a new logo and slogan for the Ocean State. The state’s quasi-public Commerce Corporation had been planning the release for months; the ridicule began on social media within minutes of the unveiling.
Mockery of the ambiguous “Cooler and Warmer” tagline and Photoshopped satire with the logo were still sweeping across the local internet when other components of the campaign hit the ground with a thud. Similar mockery of a promotional video scarcely had time to begin before somebody noticed that one clip actually showed a skateboarder in front of a landmark in Iceland. A related website was riddled with errors, including promotion of restaurants across the border in Massachusetts and a well-known chef who had died some time ago.
The administration’s response compounded the marketing failure. The governor initially defended the campaign, chastising Rhode Islanders for being so negative, but the next day she changed her tone to be more receptive to the criticism.
The shift may have been too little too late, because the incident — relatively minor of itself — too well reflected both Raimondo’s style of leadership and the broader political philosophy that sees government as a sort of corporate board for the region. Put simply, hiring outsiders on the strength of their connections and Ivy League credentials, maneuvering around rules to avoid or subvert local political opposition, and following guidance from supposed experts in New York City and Washington, D.C., might seem to be a savvy strategy for economic development and public policy, generally, but only to the extent that it works … or continues to seem as if it might work.