Jacksonville-based marketing and advertising agency Burdette-Ketchum is exceptionally skilled at verbal and written obfuscation.
This is the agency that was hired for between $45,000- $47,000 by former Nassau County manager Shanea Jones — using a discretionary fund — to re-brand the county’s image from that of a primitive backwater hillbilly haven to a modern backwater hillbilly haven. So far the agency has produced an uninspiring seal, two incomprehensible logos, and a tagline that has local residents and county officials scratching their hillbilly heads.
In a “better-late-than-never” News-Leader page-one article Friday, August 24 about the Jacksonville agency’s efforts that this blog has been writing about for the past three months, reporter Cindy Jackson contacted the agency for a comment about their work. What she heard back was as baffling as the agency’s end products — or as they call them at Burdette-Ketchum: “Deliverables.”
In her above-the-fold, front page News-Leader article the headline asked: “Nassau County’s branding project: Worth $45,000?” In the News-Leader story, she reported that the county might not use the agency’s product and would like its money back.
Ginny Walthour, Burkette-Ketchum’s vice president of Strategic Communications and Public Relations, defended her agency’s work in an email to Ms. Jackson’s inquiry saying: “We have followed a proven, collaborative process that rendered insights and a strategic basis that were met with consensus and are a great foundation for an effective creative outcome. Reaching creative consensus around a community is always complex and rounds of feedback help inform and drive the process. We remain committed to furthering our process and achieving a successful solution.” I’m not 100 percent sure but based on my many years of experience in public relations and marketing I think her response can be simply interpreted as: “Nanny Nanny Boo-Boo.”
In a follow-up question Ms. Jackson could have borrowed the line from Monty Python’s “Search for the Holy Grail” scene where French soldiers are taunting the English from a parapet and Graham Chapman’s perplexed King Arthur asks: “Is there someone else up there we can talk to?” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i84bMOTuhZE) Ms. Walthour probably would have responded the same way the film’s French soldier did saying: “No, now go away before I taunt you a second time.”
Ms. Walthour, the county thinks your agency’s work stinks, and you confirmed their observations with even more obtuse absurdities. County Attorney and acting County Manager Mike Mullin politely and succinctly summed it up recently saying: “The public was not well served by this project.” In other words they want their money back. I have no idea what the heck your response to Ms. Jackson means Ms. Walthour, and I’m not sure any other county residents or the commissioners do either. What the folks in Nassau County got for their $47,000 from your agency is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
Here’s what the Burdett/Ketchum folks have produced so far:
- A tagline — “True to Our Nature.”
- A seal that closely resembles the one the agency did for Clay County last year.
- A proposed new logo picturing a rail line, a spike, and what looked like a marijuana leaf. A second attempt at a logo that featured a bird in flight that looked more like a prehistoric pterodactyl than the egret the agency said it was supposed to be.
The only thing the agency didn’t do was pelt the commissioners with farm animals – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ8jGqdE2iw ).
And only the agency seems to have any idea what the tagline “True to Our Nature” means. With a straight face agency CEO Will Ketchum told the Commission and county residents in May that it and other “Project Deliverables” were designed: “So that you’re inspired to be true to your unique character as you pursue your dreams.” He added that the targeted audience is made up of: “…those who seek authenticity and integrity in everything.” Mr. Ketchum’s speaking time expired before he could launch into the refutation of Kantian idealism, the history of consciousness, and quintessential explanation of the process of the dialectic.
Clay County, just south of us, called on this same agency to create its new seal and logo and approved it last July 27. According to the Clay Today newspaper Mr. Ketchum suggested the new seal would differentiate Clay County, Florida from the other 17 counties named Clay throughout the U.S. I can only imagine how annoying it is for travelers headed to Clay County, South Dakota to all of a sudden find themselves in north Florida because of lousy branding. And we certainly don’t want folks headed here to end up in Nassau County, New York.
Clay County paid for its re-branding program through a $60,000 reimbursable grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which was secured by the Clay Economic Development Corporation last year. Compared to Clay County we got a deal, and apparently some of Clay County’s agency leftovers.
There appears to be little difference between the Clay County seal, pictured at left, and the second Nassau County one proposed by the agency except the tree being replaced by a bird and no factory smoke stacks in the background. Perhaps the agency works from the same “County tagline, seal and logo” template and workbook, slightly localizing its presentations as it moves from county to county.
According to the Clay Today Mr. Ketchum described a Clay County program that might sound familiar to Nassau County commissioners and residents saying: “As currently designed, the logo and tagline – ‘Small cities. Big passions.’ emphasizes the differences of the county’s various municipalities and communities, while taking in such aspects as waterways and nature.” Ketchum said the design promotes exploration of the nooks and crannies in each municipality.
“Clay can have a brand that lives throughout the county but we allow each of the small towns to preserve their own identity,” Ketchum said.
Oh, Clay County officials said they are hoping its new brand will move the county from being perceived as a rural backwater to having its own distinct identity in Northeast Florida.
Admittedly Nassau County’s current logo is a dated, crowded, “Where’s Waldo” cartoonish effort created some 30 years ago featuring the sun, beach, a shrimp boat, mills, pine trees, and farm animals. Also why do we need both a seal and a logo? How about just a seal and a tagline? Or am I missing something?
Some folks have suggested the county open up competition for re-branding to local high school and college graphic design and communications students asking them to submit concepts based on criteria established by county officials. The results could be judged by a volunteer committee selected by the county, with the winner awarded a $1,500 -$2,000 saving bond or scholarship. That would be about $43,000 – $45,000 less than what the Jacksonville agency received. Submissions would be from people who live in and know the county, the money would be well spent, and it would create good will. What’s not to like? Well, local graphic designer Amy Wilking in an opinion editorial in the Wednesday, August 29 News-Leader doesn’t like this idea at all, saying students would only produce “a bunch of amateurish, mediocre designs…” I understand her concern since she sells her work and doesn’t want the competition but I think she’s being a bit harsh. However, anything would be an improvement over what the county has received so far.
Speaking Of Taglines: Over a few beers with some of my pals at PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden the other evening we decided to see if we could come up with some appropriate taglines for Nassau County. We took into consideration that west Nassau is mostly rural with small scattered farms, mobile homes with flat tires, 1987 Buick’s up on blocks, $5 haircuts, BBQ joints, okra, boiled peanuts, dogs named Booger, Whoopee Cushions, whitewall tire planters, and folks who chew Red Man and drink PBR tall boys. East Nassau has the beach, very, very pale white gals from Minnesota in bikinis, the Ritz-Carlton, gated communities full of people who drink white wine and eat falafel sandwiches with the crust cut off, restaurants featuring parsley and kale, small yappy dogs named Adeline, a useless mud-filled marina, an airport terminal building that was designed by folks who were over served at an all-day wine tasting at the Plantation, and world famous authors that locals have never seen. Taking all these features into consideration we came up with our top 10 tagline recommendations: 1- Yes, we really play a game here called Corn Hole. 2- Is it hot in here or is it just me? 3- Strip mall space for lease. 4- WhooooEEEEE! 5- The screen door of Florida. 6- Where Florida starts or ends depending on which way your car is pointed. 7- Hold my beer and watch this. 8- Disneyworld? Nope, never heard of it. 9- Yes, the Plantation and the Ritz will track you down if you try to leave their property.10- Paper mills? What paper mills? And when it comes to a seal or logo, my buddies say we should just dust off the 40-year-old one commemorating the 1977 explosion of the marijuana-packed shrimp boat, Gilberto, that had islanders pulling pot off island dunes for weeks. It’s pictured here as it appears on a recent PJD Pajama Life commemorative T-shirt. Notice any similarities between it and the first Burdette-Ketchum effort?
More Than Just Sunshine & Beaches: Florida came in number one of all 50 states in two recent rankings and made the top 12 in another
Our state was ranked first on the Cato Institute’s “2018 Freedom in the 50 States”, which ranks a combination of personal and economic freedoms. The ranking, based on 2016 data, enabled the state to maintain the top spot it first earned in 2014. Neighboring Georgia came in number 12 while New York was dead last.
Florida’s infrastructure was rated the best in the country and Georgia’s the second best according to an analysis by an organization called 24/7 Wall St. Despite the nation’s 22nd lowest state highway spending per driver ($457), Florida has the second-lowest percentage of roads in poor condition (1.3 percent) and third-lowest share of deficient bridges (2.1 percent.) About 6.3 percent of the state’s dams are a high hazard risk, not bad compared to others.
The worst state infrastructure was Rhode Island followed in order by Hawaii, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Alaska, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, New York and Delaware. It’s interesting to note that all the states that brought up the rear are controlled by Democrats with the exception of Alaska with an Independent governor, Iowa with a Republican governor and West Virginia, with a governor who was elected as a Democrat and who just recently switched to the Republican party.
Also, in a CNN article last week Amelia Island was ranked one of the 12 most gorgeous islands in America right up there with Catalina, Fire, Kodiak, Martha’s Vineyard, Maui, and Sanibel, putting us in very prestigious company.
Good Economic Omens: Two separate stories in The Wall Street Journal indicating that the economy is booming caught my attention the other day. The first was how the demand for trucks is so great that anyone ordering one has a nine-month or longer wait. According to the WSJ, freight haulers ordered more than 300,000 big rigs the first seven months of this year and are on track to order a record 450,000 for a full year, a record as fleets are attempting to keep up with the demands of a robust economy. The second article detailed that American farmers are investing heavily in equipment despite concerns about potential tariffs on their products. Deere & Co. said its outlook includes a 30 percent increase in its sales of farm and construction equipment and raised its growth forecast for farm-equipment sales to 15 percent this year.
Who Owns The Interstates? “I continue to be amazed at how many Americans erroneously believe that (1) the federal government owns the interstates, and (2) that since they are ‘already paid for,’ using tolls for them would be ‘double taxation.’ Actually, the states own all the interstates and are fully responsible for maintaining, improving and replacing them as they wear out. And, since most are nearing the end of their 50-year design life, somebody is going to have to pay to rebuild them, and also to replace major bottleneck interchanges in urban areas and to add lanes where needed. There is no federal program in sight to come to the states’ rescue on this.” – Bob Poole via Georgia Public Policy Foundation
If You’re A Local Republican — and would like to meet some local and state party leaders and influencers then mark Tuesday, September 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Walker’s Landing, 11 Beach Lagoon Road, on your calendar. Local resident, well known speaker, author and eloquent conservative, Neal Freeman, who worked closely with William F. Buckley for many years will attend as will State Senator Aaron Bean and others. RSVP your intentions to Justin Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll see you there.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The only sports bar in Nassau County — Halftime Sports Bar & Grill on South 8th Street — closed its doors for good this week, just as the baseball playoffs and football season are starting. If there’s another sports bar in Nassau County I am unaware of it, so an enterprising entrepreneur has a opening that I think could be wildly successful if done properly. A restaurant with a bar, live music and lots of TVs is NOT a sports bar. PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden on downtown’s South 2nd Street now how has 16 beer taps, with another five planned. In addition it also boasts more than 140 beers and is planning an extension with a roof top deck. While my friend Pajamadave Voorhees is the silly front man for this fun neighborhood pub, his fiance, Zan Maddoz, is the brains behind the beer selections and she certainly knows her stuff.
Loved your PJD tag lines, but to be serious for a moment, may I modestly propose the following tag line: “Nassau County, Florida, The Natural Place to Work And Play”. I think this expresses the key factors that differentiate our community from others, namely the dual nature of our economy and lifestyle, and the diversity of our natural environment. If you think about it, most of our industry is related to forestry, agriculture, fishing and marine transportation and tourism. At the same time our lifestyles are all directly related to our beaches, waterways, forrests and open land. We all work and play in and around nature. While other counties are more industrialized, or more rural or more beach oriented, Nassau is a happy blend of rich retirees and working families all working and playing in one of nature’s most pleasant environments.
If we can embrace a tag line, the design of an appropriate seal/logo should be a matter of what graphic design best represents the idea expressed in the tag line. I personally prefer an open competition with a prize sponsored by a civic organization or corporate sponsor ( maybe even the News Leader), with professional help if needed to refine/ perfect the winning entry.
Hmmm….a college student designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC….even beat her professor. Students can be very talented AND imaginative and I would MUCH rather have my money to towards a scholarship for a LOCAL student than some over-thinking wonk in Duuuuuuvalllll.
One of your best. The taglines are so good, how did even the PJD folks and customers come up with those. It’s great to laugh. I was part of a team that went through comprehensive re-branding for an organization with five different but related service products. The marketing firm used is right here and at a fraction of the cost of this Jax. company. The end product was and is very high quality and effective. Hard to believe the P.R. person from the Jax. company actually said all of that nonsense – that is really embarrassing for them, but maybe they don’t know that. From their silly statements, it’s more likely they don’t care, they’ve got the $$$$ now. Hope the county can get a refund and start over, what are the chances of that!
I didn’t realize that the states “owned” the interstate highways but I did know that they are responsible for maintenance. A quick check with the Federal Highway Administration provides a lot of history and (too much?) information regarding the system. The following web page ( https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/intmaint.cfm ) explains the maze of laws and regulations and formulas whereby the federal government reimburses states. It’s a long article but 3/4 down the page it clearly states: “The Interstate Maintenance (IM) program provides funding for resurfacing, restoring, rehabilitating and reconstructing (4R) most routes on the Interstate System.” As a side note, I’ve driven the 120 miles of I-95 from Florida to South Carolina many times in the past 20 years and commuted daily for 4 years the 60 miles from Fernandina to Brunswick. When they widened the road from two lanes to three, they did a complete tear-up of ALL lanes and rebuilt/upgraded the bridges as well. This road, like many others, is closer to 12 years old, not 50 years old as Mr. Poole contends. Ignorant people like this shouldn’t be working in anyone’s Policy Foundation.
Hi Dave, love your blog. I have an idea on the for the seal and tag line. Get your friends to collect about 2k and do the competition yourself. I’ll bet you will be surprised by the results. Young people can be very creative given the chance. I will donate $100 to get it started.
Many years ago when I left home to “see the world” I came across the perfect tag line on the side of a police car. “Serve and protect” says it all. Simple yet all-inclusive and complete. If they’re doing more than serving or protecting, then they should cut it out.
Back in the ’80s companies began to develop mission statements, corporate visions, corporate values and the like. I worked for a large gas and electric company at the time. Apparently, “keep the lights on” and “hire motivated employees” weren’t obvious enough statements. They spent more than a year and tens (maybe hundreds?) of thousands of dollars on this less than necessary project that no one pays attention to anyway.
While I agree that paying a professional designer SHOULD give superior results, that isn’t always the case. Paying someone $45,000 to “try” isn’t any different than awarding a participation trophy.
Dave – yet another great blog. Your observations on the “gobbledegook” presented by the re-branding consultants are spot on. However we have to remember that you and I are from a sadly depleting generation where plain English (or the American version of it) was the order of the day. Believe it or not there are now legions of business school indoctrinated managers who actual think that they understand current long winded and obscure business speak.
Personally, for example, I never did understand the need for these returnees to spend “Quality Time” with me or their juniors upon their return to the real world .
Guess that was the first step towards my Grumpy Old Man tag.🤪
I agree w/ Tom, having graphic design students from the local high schools & colleges submit their works in front of a well chosen committee or even voted by the county would look good on their resumes. First, second & third prizes of monetary value will at least further their education…..as the saying goes”what’s not to like”? Speaking of beer……why pay for beer coming from Jacksonville or elsewhere when you can enjoy a cold pint or two of Locally Brewed beer @ the Amelia Tavern. What is it we say “buy local”?!!
Well said, Amy Wilking!
As one of the grateful and lucky recipients of her professional skills (at generous family discount, thank you so much, wink wink!), I can attest that there is SO much more that goes into professional design before pencil hits paper (or mouse & computer these days). From time spent getting to know the product, it’s target market and what design vibe (my term) appeals to said target market (which truly is the realm of the professional) to helping guide decisions on all aspects of marketing. I was amazed to learn just how complex and dense is the professional design process.
Now, about “True to Our Nature”; My first thought when I read it was that it was referring to this amazing habitat that allows the abundance of flora and fauna we residents so appreciate, and which inspires so many visitors to return and eventually become new residents. Unfortunately, the current rate of development is endangering the very (Mother) Nature that “(inspires us) to be true to (our) unique character as (we) pursue (our) dreams.”
Either way the line is intended-Mother Nature or human nature-it’s unlikely to be appropriately descriptive for very long.
But Dave, thanks for starting the brainstorming at PJD’s!
Those taglines are worth immortalizing in some way…maybe a north Florida version of Conch Republic??
Has to be one of your better efforts. Though it isn’t effort to talented folks like you. Always look forward to Friday a.m. and your blog.
Amy…I may have been the first to David mentioning student competition and basically free labor to redesign the county logo/seal. Why not try? It does not mean that the student design must be adopted. As a retired Principal I have seen some amazing art work/student ideas in my 45 years in the school business. At least it gives us the opportunity to discuss, brainstorm and have input in the process.
And – If the resulting contest designs are good, but not quite what you want, you can always hire a professional to work with the elements you like. Wider input at the beginning of the process might result in better assessment of what the County is really looking for. I’m surprised that the “professional” agency didn’t provide a slew of preliminary sketches beforehand to determine if they were on the right track.
Hilarious! “Where Florida starts and ends depending on which way your car is pointed”. tears! to damn funny! Thanks for the jump start to a great weekend.
One of your best. Paper mills? What paper mills? has my vote.
Hi Dave — Your section “Speaking of Taglines” was so funny that I saved it to my desktop so I can re-read when I need a good laugh. Thanks for the laughs to go along with my morning coffee!
P.S. Would love to buy Gilberto t-shirts for some friends and relatives before Thanksgiving. I hope PJ Dave doesn’t sell out.
Hi Dave, you feel my comments about the results of a contest from high school students may “a bit harsh,” but they are likely very accurate. I was as talented an artist as you’d find in high school, but — looking back — in no way skilled or experienced enough at that age to design something worthy of representing an entity such as Nassau County. My high school art club or yearbook, perhaps, but not a multi-million dollar business/organization. As to your comment that “since she sells her work and doesn’t want the competition,” I promise you that’s not the case; I’m just interested in the County having a logo/seal that’s not an embarrassment. I get so disheartened seeing bad logos for businesses around this town produced by some hack (“I got me a copy of Photoshop, therefore I am a designer!”) when there are some really talented designers here who produce quality, professional work *for a living.* I suppose you could say I’m jaded and a design snob, but I’m not greedy or anti-competition (except when it’s some business or organization who could full-well afford to pay who is just being cheap by holding a “contest”). I have done so much pro bono work (of my own volition) it would make you shake your head. But entities who hold “design contests” to get a free or cheap logo are, in general, lazy, dismissive and —most of all — exploitative of the talent, schooling/training and experience that make a successful designer. It’s a business proposition; a business’s brand/image is its face to the world, and it’s a choice to look professional or amateur. And usually those organizations who are short-sighted enough to have a “design contest!” also lack anyone qualified to judge if something is worthy or not. Occasionally you’ll get a good designer who’s hungry or bored to participate in a contest (if the reward is high enough), but more often than not the contest results in something awful, because for the most part, those are the only submissions they get.
Another great blog David – keep it up