This morning I was watching the local news and they were talking about a campaign to boost Oregon’s tourism. The state had hired an ad agency and everything. They are serious about this. They are concerned about the bad press Oregon has been receiving lately. No money for school, highest unemployment, making Mississippi look good. The list goes on.
It’s irritating that the news story didn’t address why these problems are so well known. We really do have a crap economy, and our children are getting a budget education and spending little time in school. Why should people want to come here?
At any rate, I spent all morning pondering how to market Oregon.
First of all, there is sort of an east-west dichotomy in the state. I grew up in south-central Oregon. Friends, I’ve been to cattle brandings and Western weddings. In Portland, on the west side, we have none of this. In the Willamette Valley, we just don’t do these things. People with cowboy hats are considered poseurs or geeks. Or both.
In Klamath Falls, Portland doesn’t even seem like part of the state. It is a weird, exotic wonderland with many shiny things. However, people from Portland are not to be trusted. They vote all liberal-like and are to be treated with suspicion at all times.
In Klamath, I felt no loyalty to the Portland Trailblazers. Portland hadn’t done much for us, so my group of friends worshipped the Bulls. These were the years Jordan was on top of the world. My friend Jason made some bling in jewelry class. It was a giant silver Jordan silhouette, and he wore it every day. But that is neither here nor there.
We in Portland certainly do misunderstand our rural neighbors. The farmers in Klamath Falls fight for water, and we fight for fish. Personally, I really do think it’s stupid to farm the high desert, but a lot of people stand to lose a lot more than their shirts.
So, what will we use as Oregon’s gimmick? “Don’t Mess with Oregon” doesn’t work because we don’t have the budget to back that kind of statement up. Oregon isn’t for Lovers, as Christian Longo, that kid who cut up his ex-girlfriend and that other dude who killed his family have proven.
We certainly have the outdoors to our advantage. You can do just about any outdoor activity imaginable, and it doesn’t matter which part of the state you’re in. But not everyone likes the outdoors. And if you cut out the outdoors, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Oregon.
Unless you are in Portland. In Portland we have world-class hotels and restaurants. But I will admit that our shopping is less than world-class. The downtown Meier and Frank only has crap, and the Nordstrom leaves you hollow inside, save for the shoe department.
Another thing we have in Portland is beer. Lots of beer. Beer made here, and beers made worldwide. Foreign magazines tout our beer, and we in our own publications extol the virtues of everything from Pabst to an exotic Singapore microbrew.
Of course, another thing Portland has that the rest of the world doesn’t is Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s is a place that no one can be ashamed of, unless it’s time for contract renewals. Powell’s sells new books and old. Oprah recommendations sit next to the staff recommendations, which are usually pretty good.
I guess the state could pour billions of dollars into trying to market Oregon. But why bother when you have Portland? The outdoors is half an hour away, and you have everything else you need in the city proper.