Branding Arizona

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Because of controversial laws passed by state lawmakers, Arizona’s image has taken a beating in recent years. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey hopes to improve the state’s branding with a new campaign led by the Arizona Commerce Authority. Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the commerce authority and Mark Stapp of the Arizona State University W.P. School of Business will discuss the governor’s effort to improve Arizona’s brand.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon. We'll discuss efforts to change Arizona's brand. Also tonight, meet the new dining critic at the Arizona Republic. And we'll hear how governing boards can be crucial for the success of nonprofits. Those stories next on Arizona Horizon.

VIDEO: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. The state department of transportation today released a recommendation for a passenger route between Phoenix and Tucson. They recommended route outlined in yellow would run from downtown Phoenix through Tempe and Santan valley and south through state route 87 to Eloy and then southeast along i-10 to Tucson. They recommended alignment would run 120 miles and cost 4.2 to 5.1 billion. Public hearings on the recommended route and two alternatives including a no build option are scheduled for later this month. Many believe that Arizona's image has taken a beating in recent years from sb1070 and Federal investigations into Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office to low education funding and pointing fingers, literally at the President. Arizona has made all the wrong headlines of late but, the state is launching a new effort to rebrand Arizona's image and here with more is Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona commerce authority and Mark Stapp, of ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business. Good to have you both here and thanks for joining us. Before we get into it too deeply, what is a brand? Is it similar to an image? What are we talking about here?

SANDRA WATSON: From the state's perspective we're talking about promoting the State of Arizona, so identifying a brand, a selling feature for the State of Arizona, as it relates to business, tourism, as well as the entire state.

TED SIMONS: Does Arizona currently have a brand?

SANDRA WATSON: I think there are a variety of organizations out there that have launched various branding exercises, but our, our opportunity here in Arizona is to really talk to Arizonans, to really better understand why they love our state, what's meaningful and what is genuine about the State of Arizona and what is different about the state. How can we utilize that and utilize the -- those opportunities and the research and the discovery phase to really identify a single image. Opportunity for the State of Arizona.

TED SIMONS: The difference between a brand and an image.

MARK STAPP: I think that the state has an image. You mentioned it in the opening. I think that if there is a brand, and a brand is what lives in the minds of people that view us, so I think that we have had our bland. I really don't think that we have a brand, it is an image. By default. Because of many policy related decisions that have affected how people view us. And you know, the ability to create or to change, create a new image or change that image, is hard to do. It's really difficult. Branding as an event, has to do with not what we think, it has to do with what others think of us. Branding a state means the ability to begin establishing and controlling all of those elements that go with a promise that comes with that brand. And it's really tough to brand places.

TED SIMONS: With that in mind, how do we go about branding or rebranding Arizona, if you will?

SANDRA WATSON: Right, right. I think that to mark's point, I think that it is, obviously, a very complex challenge. From Arizona's standpoint, it's important that we don't let others define who we really are. There is incredible assets that we have here in Arizona. Incredible attributes, that we want to make sure that others understand the real value proposition that Arizona offers, so when you think about the global economy. The competition that we are currently facing with not only other states, but other countries, it's really important that we begin to tell Arizona's story. For a number of years, Arizona's story has been told by others. And it's important that we, as community and business leaders, start to take control of that potential image and create the right brand, a brand is an emotional connection. And we have got to make sure that people understand the value, the value proposition for Arizona, and when we come back we go around the is that it and talk to folks about why they love Arizona, we get such a positive reaction, so there is a true love for our state. We have got to get out there and communicate what that really is.

MARK STAPP: I think Sandra, one of the things important to identify why we want to do this. Who our target audience is. Because it's the reason for doing this, is for job creation, job retention. Attracting employers. This is really a competition for employees, not a competition for employers. And to do it well, I think that we have too first identify who those employees are that the employers were after, want to employ. And then we have to begin to create the place that's attractive to them. Because if they can attract the employees or keep them, they are not going to stay, and so it's more than identifying or articulating characteristics of the state that we love. It's from a business standpoint, are we creating the kind of place that the kind of employees we want, want to be at.

TED SIMONS: And that, that -- please.

SANDRA WATSON: And I think that that's a very good point. If we step back and think about Arizona, there are several things that we would like to accomplish with this project. One is, obviously, trying to create the value proposition that is important for businesses. Also, to attract the talents, so as you talked about employees, incredibly important as we move forward, but also, to create civic pride. It's very important that we here in Arizona understand what the assets are. What happened over the years is that the, the true value proposition of Arizona is unknown, not only outside of the state but within the State of Arizona. I will give you a few examples. We have. Do you represent ASU. We have the largest single campus University in the entire country. We also have the largest single community college system in the country. We are the fourth highest concentration of aerospace and defense as it relates to employment. Also, as it relates to semi-conductor electronics. We are ranked seventh as it relates to technology. These are incredible assets. Yet, many of the folks here in Arizona just are not aware of them.

TED SIMONS: To Sandra's point, though, to is a degree, can you affix a brand? Can you say we're number seven in technology, we're number two in insurance. We're -- number one in -- can you go that far? How many times can I say that I'm great before you believe I am great?

MARK STAPP: Well, so, we have had this problem. We have had trouble attracting the kinds of employers that we have this image that we should be able to attract. You know, what one of the things that I think that we have done for too long, is chased the low-cost provider position by saying, we have cheap land. We have cheap labor. We have cheap operating expenses. We can give you tax deals. That's not going to get it done. As we mature, we have got to be able to deliver on a social, cultural level. The problem with branding, for instance, a state or a place, is you have to be able to control all of the policy elements, that back up that promise.

TED SIMONS: And we have only 30 seconds. I want to ask you, how do you ensure that the promise of the brand can be delivered?

SANDRA WATSON: Absolutely. And I think that to Mark's point, when you talk about the employers we've been attracting, apple is a great example, G.M. is another. Uber, these are all great companies, and we have got a list of other technology related companies that are doing incredible things and are globally recognized so Arizona is, obviously, developing a value proposition that is conducive to the success of those companies.

TED SIMONS: All right, we have to stop it there, good discussion and thanks for joining us.

SANDRA WATSON: Thank you.

Sandra Watson: president and CEO of the commerce authority, Mark Stapp: of the Arizona State University W.P. School of Business

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