Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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February 8, 2013

CARRIE STAMBAUGH: A kicking new slogan

ASHLAND — Kentucky Kicks Ass.

    That’s the slogan a pair of grassroots marketing guys are pushing to replace the state’s “Unbridled Spirit” motto.

I would agree. Kentucky does kick butt. I’m a born Buckeye, but the Bluegrass is best.

My husband, a native Kentuckian, also likes the new slogan. But he’d add “copious amounts of a--.”

The new slogan is edgy and fresh. And it is spreading like wildfire across the state. T-shirts, prints and maps with the slogan, all made by small Kentucky businesses, are flying off the shelf.  I had to purchase a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Kick Ass Kentuckian” for my husband. Because? Well, I think he is one!

The line was created by professional advertisers Whit Hiler and Griffin VanMeter, who also founded the group Kentucky For Kentucky. It operates a website, www.KentuckyforKentucky, and Facebook page promoting the state its residents and its other contributions to the world.

Oh, where do you start? With Daniel Boone?

Originally the pair had hoped to raise enough money to buy a Super Bowl ad to spread the message about our Commonwealth far and wide, but their efforts fell significantly short. Instead, they turned to social media to do the trick, launching an online video late in December

“Tell everyone you know — Kentucky kicks ass!” the pair crone at the end of their roughly five-minute video. I’m telling you now and lots of other people are doing the same.

As of Thursday evening, Kentucky For Kentucky has 11,908 likes on Facebook, including my own. The campaign is also garnering national and international media attention.

Just last week, Conan O’Brien mentioned it on his show, albeit poking fun at us at the same time. He said it replaces the state’s old slogan: At least we aren’t Alabama.  

On Wednesday, the BBC published an article exploring how the phrase “kick ass” made it into popular vernacular and why it’s so American. You can thank the military, sports coaches and, most recently, President George W. Bush and President Obama.

NPR and USA Today have also published articles about the slogan, which has made appearances on countless other blogs and email listserves. I’ve seen at least two dozen.

The suggestion of rebranding Kentucky hasn’t gone over well though with the state tourism folks. After the state spent $500,000 on the “Unbridled Spirit” motto in 2004, I can see why they are attached to it.

Gov. Steve Beshear called it “fun” and applauded the pair for their “innovation” and for attracting a lot of attention to the state but he hasn’t moved to make it official.

That’s a swift kick in the, uh, pants for the campaign that claims it only wants to increase tourism, foster pride, attract new business, diminish stereotypes, unify the state and distinguish Kentucky from any other place on the planet.

If the state isn’t up to the task, regular folks can take it on with that unbridled spirit.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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