‘A bad image or no image’

Poor Manitoba. It isn’t enough that my birth province is beset by frigid winters and an overabundance of blood-sucking mosquitoes in the summer. Not to mention a hollowed-out downtown, glue sniffing and a 40+ year exodus to points East and West.

And now, to add insult to injury, it turns out that the reaction to ‘Spirited Energy’, the province’s attempt to rebrand and attract visitors and investment, was less than warmly received when it was tested in focus groups. According the Marketing magazine online (subscription required): consumers ‘were lukewarm and even confused’ about the campaign. (I guess that’s why the provincial government was reticent to release the results and only did so after an order from the ombudsman.)

Competitiveness Minister Jim Rondeau defended the government’s decision to go with the campaign by saying, ‘Before the whole exercise, Manitoba either had a bad image or no image.’’

Thanks Minister. It’s good to see the current government is upholding the status quo.

To be frank, I was completely underwhelmed by Manitoba’s new slogan, too. It reminded me of the wrong-headed, dull ‘Toronto’s Unlimited’ campaign. Both seem to miss the mark in that they fail to convey what it is about those places that make them stand out, that capture people’s hearts and minds. (Think ‘I Love New York’.)

There’s lots to celebrate about Manitoba. The wonderful heritage, endless prairie sky, long, sunny days, Salisbury House and Rae and Jerry’s and the Fabric Centre, of course*.

If you ask me (and nobody did). I think the province should return to ‘Friendly Manitoba’ and build on that. A good image starts with who you are, not who you think you should be.

*Disclosure: The Fabric Centre, Winnipeg’s first fabric retailer, was founded and operated by my father. I worked there after school and for many summers and it’s now owned and operated by my sister.


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