Play to your strengths

I’m not a native Iowan.  I’ve been here for about 15 years and its a great place to raise a family, build a business and enjoy a quality of life that is tough to beat.

But as long as I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed that Iowans are constantly apologizing or putting down their own state.  They lament that college kids seek the big cities and that there isn’t enough night life for the single set.  Both true.  And probably not going to change.

For years, Iowa has tried to overcome that perception (again — remember its accurate) with media campaigns and catchy slogans.  Surprise — they didn’t work.

Why would you put the spotlight on a weakness and then shout "nuh uh!" and try to disprove it?

That’s why I was thrilled to see Patrick Schaber’s post about Iowa’s newest campaign.

For the first time that I can remember, the state’s push for people to consider bringing their business and/or their family to Iowa is not apologizing — it is celebrating all that makes it such a terrific place to live.

They’re running ads in magazines like Fast Company and built a pretty impressive website.

Also on their site is the creative, like this outdoor board, that they’re running.


The print ad series touts some of the perks of Iowa life and spotlights families who’ve made the move.  This PDF ( Download haldeman.pdf ) talks about Iowa being the 8th safest state to live in.  Not a bad message these days.

Another ad (–>) talks about Iowa’s reasonable housing costs.  Picture_5_3 What makes this campaign so strong is that Iowa finally stopped trying to put lipstick on a pig.  Marketing campaigns that make you something that you’re not but really, really wish you could be, do nothing but muddy the waters.

Congrats Iowa for getting it right!

Read what some of my fellow Iowans say about why Iowa.

Mike Sansone

Todd Mundt
Tom Vander Well
Adam Steen
Andy Brudtkuhl
Cory Garrison

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9 comments on “Play to your strengths

  1. Andrew Clark says:

    I came back to Iowa after trying (very hard I must say) to “get away.” Both Boston and Kansas City were fun, but, in my opinion, simply deflated versions of something they’re trying SO hard to be…

    Iowa carries no pretense to being metropolitan. Iowa never assumed you’d be discovered here…

    What Iowa does assume – and for good reason – is that we, as a community, are disciplined enough to work for a living and proud enough not to care if Paris thinks it’s cool. Iowa isn’t looking to be MTV… Or VH1 for that matter. We’re good, wholesome, hard-working families that take pride in being exactly who we are. No posers. No pretenders.

    Innovation and success come from hard work and diligent commitment to quality.

    I love Iowa for what I can do here. I also love Iowa for what I can’t do here. It’s probably something I didn’t need to do anyway.

  2. Drew – I think this is a great campaign for Iowa (and for the Midwest for that matter). Thanks for picking up the story. I’ll update my post to point towards your story for more screenshots.

  3. Claire Celsi says:

    I love this campaign…and not only because my company came up with the concepts. Drew is right. We have wonderful things to talk about in Iowa. We should be proud of having an excellent quality of life.

  4. The best ones were the Bettendorf postcards a few years ago that played on the Iowa’s Most Exciting City theme, which was where I grew up before moving to Phoenix 17 years ago.

    Several years ago I attended an event here in Phoenix for Iowa transplants which was very well-presented. Ultimately, being a snowbird sounds pretty tempting.

    I love the technology focus going on right now in Iowa. I like to read the news from the Quad Cities and have a couple of Squidoo lenses about Iowa:
    Iowa is Purple
    Discover the Quad Cities

    Glad I found your blog! :^)

  5. Forgot to mention, I saw the ads in the Business 2.0 and Fast Company (subscribe to both) and I think in some IT verticals. I even remember commenting about the ads. Good placement to reach the target audience.

    Iowa people are so smart :^)

  6. Andrew — I feel the same way. I think Iowa (and probably most midwestern states) do themselves a huge disservice by trying to be something they’re not.

    And sadly — really missing out on what they do genuinely offer.

    Like you, I value Iowa’s opportunities, safety, good schools and the fact that a handshake is a binding agreement.


  7. Pat,

    Thanks for the point back. And for writing about the campaign to begin with. I ended up calling the Iowa Dept of Economic Development to learn more about it.

    They’ve got some good things in store!


  8. Claire,

    Do you work for Integer? If so…bravo to your team for really nailing this one!


  9. Susan,

    Once an Iowan always an Iowan, eh?

    With the weather we’ve had lately — I don’t blame you for staying south!

    You’re right of course, Iowans are finally getting it right. Be who you are. Not who you think people wish you were.


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