When Being "Alaskan" Can Hurt You - Fine Point: Anchorage Alaska Advertising Agency

When Being “Alaskan” Can Hurt You

Alaskan businesses always set out to be seen as local. It makes perfect sense: Being “local” gives peace of mind to consumers knowing they have someone local to talk to and that they are helping the community and economy grow.

But when it comes to advertising, trying to be seen as a “local” business can quickly lead many business owners into a trap.

Rethink Alaskan Icons

Denali, Northern Lights, the Big Dipper, the state flag … these are all images that immediately tell people “this is Alaska”.

And that’s why these are all images that you should try to avoid using. Firstly, everyone else is using them too. Secondly, they aren’t always relevant to your actual product or service.

For example, a few years ago I was having a meeting with a client and they wanted the Big Dipper in their logo. It’s a typical request — not the first time someone asked, not the last.

The problem was, they sold office supplies. The Big Dipper might have said “Alaska”, but it didn’t say anything about them. It was simply chosen because it’s an easily recognizable image for our state.  Now they are lost in the noise of all the other companies who also use the big dipper in their logo.

The solution here, if you must use local iconography, is to go with icons that are less well known, but still relevant. A particularly effective solution can go for something that’s super local to your business.

Maybe there’s a park, plant, or animal that has a special significance to the owner. Using that image not only says “local”, but uses something that people haven’t seen a thousand times before.

For example, Moose’s Tooth is very Alaskan, unique, and memorable.

Use People, Not Places

We love our state, but when we go shopping for products and services we don’t go talking to mountains, constellations, or flags.

We talk to people.

Feature REAL employees in your ads over landscapes.  Alaska is small enough that there is a high likelihood that those people will spark recognition.  Recognition creates trust. Trust turns into sales.

JC Penny, despite being a national brand, does excellent localization of its store in Anchorage. They put the face of the local store manager at the entrance of the store, so you know the person to talk to if you have a problem. The brand might be nation-wide, but the Anchorage store is our local store.

Using the faces of the local staff and management ticks multiple boxes — you show you’re local, you show you’re human, and you avoid the use of generic iconography. It’s local, unique, and, well, you.

Embody Alaskaness

Duct tape, Extra Tuffs, Costco.  Not a single one of these brands are from Alaska, but they all scream Alaskan.

Better than being “local”, they feel Alaskan. All three of these brands embody at least two of the four Alaskan TRIP attributes.  The TRIP attributes are four qualities that are indisputably Alaskan.  Alaskans identify with the TRIP attributes.  Brands that incorporate them are rewarded with customer pride, brand loyalty, and repeat sales.  The TRIP attributes are:

–         Thrifty

–         Rugged

–         Industrious

–         Pack rat

If you are going to integrate “local” in your marketing, don’t be lazy.  Find ways to make your brand say both Alaskan while still being uniquely you.

I use the acronym TRIP because if you don’t have time to integrate local with your marketing, you can always give away Alaska Airline miles as a promotion.  That is guaranteed to work!

Real Alaskans love it here but, hey, there is nothing we love more than a free trip out.

However, giveaways don’t build your brand.  To truly be successful, give your company a personality that Alaskans can identify with.  Alaskans proudly say that we are different from the rest of the US.  In order to stand out, make your marketing uniquely Alaskan.

About the Author

Ross Johnston holds an MBA from the AGSM, ranked as the #3 global business school by Forbes Magazine and a BBA in Marketing from the College of William and Mary.

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