Not Punny: Wyoming’s New ‘That’s WY’ Tagline Tries Hard to Be Clever


That's WY

That’s WY.

The pun answer to an unasked question is central to the new Wyoming Office of Tourism’s campaign. “That’s WY” is part of a $5.7 million marketing project and was created by Milwaukee’s BVK, which says it aims to “take this incredibly vast and rugged landscape and make it feel personal.”

Why add a pun to your brand communications? There are very few good reasons.

Think Different; Got Milk?; Think Small; I’m Lovin’ It; Finger Lickin’ Good; Zoom Zoom; Push Button Get Mortgage; Just Do It. These are some of the more memorable product taglines in recent history and none of them are puns. Even when it comes to destination branding, you will be hard pressed to find a memorable pun: I Love NY; Virginia is for Lovers; What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas; Pure Michigan; Hollywood North.

“That’s Why” will include TV ads (“WY Am I Here?”) and web communications. It will also include print ads that AdAge rightfully called “lighthearted without taking away any of the grandeur.”

Wyoming is having an identity definition crisis that is probably not going to be solved by a pun based on its US postal service initials. In 2015, Wyoming built a large campaign around “Roam Free.” The communication was epic and moving and highlighted the dynamic landscapes, activities and personality of the state. It was not unlike the new campaign. So WY change it? How is “That’s WY” more inspiring than “Roam Free?”

We like it here. You might too.

Tagline creators generally do not favor passivity. But the new Oregon Tourism campaign is going for the soft sell. And to next generations who have been bombarded with hard sells since they first watched TV, it might just break through the clutter.

“We like it here. You might too” is the tagline from Wieden + Kennedy for Travel Oregon. The campaign adopts the false humility one might associate with the hipsters in Oregon. Indeed, if you can’t break the stereotypes, embrace them—and Oregon has done just that. This was the same state that brought in indie folk rockers to promote its state-run “Obamacare” enrollment drive in 2013.

As with Wyoming, Oregon’s “You might too” soft sell includes messages about disappointment that the state’s volcanoes have no lava and how you’ll need a sweater instead of a swimsuit. But these “disappointment” messages are accompanied by videos of the state’s grandeur and landscape magnificence. Contrast Wyoming’s pun with Oregon’s more complex pitch. Oregon’s “You might too” is layered and connects images to messages in a intriguing way. Wyoming merely offers a one-dimensional punchline.

Big—Even to a Dinosaur.

Oddly enough, Hollywood just handed Wyoming an intriguing potential slogan—for free. Wyoming Tourism recently coordinated with Pixar’s animated film The Good Dinosaur. The partnership promotion was based on how the filmmakers scouted Wyoming as the primary source for the adventurous film’s beautiful landscapes.

In an interview with Wyoming Tourism, Peter Sohn, the director of the film, summed up his experience touring the state: “It feels big—even to a dinosaur.” So which is more appealing and offers truly unique messaging potential: “That’s WY” or “Big—Even for a Dinosaur.”

It’s worth noting that the agency behind “That’s WY” also handles the Maine Tourism Authority’s “The Maine Thing Quarterlywebsite.

It’s easy to understand why puns tempt marketers. They seem to suggest a cleverness with words, a New Yorker-cartoon-like sophistication. But the graveyard of brand taglines should have the last word on the matter.