Oklahoma paid more than $250,000 for its new ‘Imagine That’ brand, logo

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Update: Gov. Kevin Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell unveiled the state’s new logo and brand — “Imagine That” — during a press conference on Wednesday morning in Oklahoma City. 

“Last summer I invited more than 200 of Oklahoma’s brightest and most creative designers, marketing experts, communications professionals, videographers and photographers to join me in creating a new brand for Oklahoma,” said Pinnell, “Their task was to develop a cohesive, new brand for Oklahoma that best represents our heritage and history, our booming industry, our beautiful one of a kind vistas, and most importantly, our greatest asset – our people. The vision behind this effort is to position Oklahoma as a top-tier destination for visitors, businesses, talent and citizens.”

“As Secretary of Tourism and Branding, Lt. Governor Pinnell has traveled to communities across Oklahoma and personally experienced everything our state has to offer,” said Stitt. “His enthusiasm and passion for our state and people is evident, and he charged full steam ahead to pull together creatives from all over the state to form and launch this new brand for Oklahoma. With this new brand, we will work to breathe new life into tourism, job recruitment, investors, and much more.”

The Oklahoma Capitol BRIANNA BAILEY/The Frontier

Last July, about seven months into his quest to make Oklahoma a “Top 10 state,” Gov. Kevin Stitt announced in an email that he’d tasked Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell with rebranding the Sooner State.

“If we don’t define Oklahoma’s brand, 49 other states will,” Stitt wrote in the email. “It’s time we tell the nation our story, but it requires us to first hone in a simple, fresh brand for our state.”

On Wednesday, Stitt will officially unveil that brand — parts of which were leaked last month on TheLostOgle — the purpose of which is to “position Oklahoma as highly attractive for tourists, businesses, talent and citizens, while ensuring visual coherency across state government agencies.”

The branding process cost the state $259,065.93, according to Sheila Curley. Curley’s company, SixPR, has helped with the launch and rollout of the brand and logo.

Last summer the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, which is led by Pinnell, entered into a contract with Operative Brand Consulting, an Ontario, Canada, based company to assist with the state’s new branding process.

They, along with more than 100 creative volunteers from across Oklahoma that branded themselves “OklaX,” created a new tagline and logo for the state.

“It was a lot of work,” said Sarah Sears, one of a handful of OklaX team captains.. Sears led a group of 25 volunteers on the “visual identity and photography team.”

“It was all the normal things you think about when creating a new brand — can it work in color and black and white. Can it be digital, printed, printed on a pencil or on the side of a building … You quickly have to decide what’s going to be functional, but also has to be beautiful.” 

Sears, who owns S Design in Oklahoma City, said her team wanted “every Oklahoman to see themselves” in the new brand.

“We have a lot of diversity in our state, lots of different backgrounds and heritage. It was important to us and my team that all of them could see themselves in this mark,” Sears said. 

“That they would be able to identify with it and it would be memorable and different from competing states … You want a brand to last 50 years. It’s different than doing a campaign, it’s something that’s meant to last forever if possible.” 

Rebranding Oklahoma has been on Stitt’s mind since before he took office. Stitt, from Tulsa, saw a grassroots effort to redesign the city’s flag launch in 2016. And before the Tulsa city council could even officially adopt the flag, it began appearing on shirts, merchandise, and even the city’s sports teams uniforms.

And while running for governor, Stitt, eager to ditch Oklahoma’s reputation as a state with loaded prisons and poor school funding, began continuously referring to his plan to make Oklahoma a “Top 10 State.” 

Once released, the new tagline and state logo will appear on shirts, signs, state websites, apps, and social media pages, as well as other places, officials have said.

The contract

The contract with Operative Brand Consulting called for five phases, each of which had a dollar figure attached. 

The five phases — Prepare, Understand, Develop, Validate, Document — combined to potentially cost the state up to $415,000, though Curley said the final amount billed to Operative Brand Consulting was $259,065.93. 

Where does that dollar figure stack up compared to other states who went through rebrands?

When Minnesota rebranded its state in 2014, it didn’t release a dollar figure and said it used an existing logo that had already been paid for. 

“(The) cost of implementing the new brand to all agencies is minimal,” according to an FAQ on the state government’s website. 

Arizona rebranded in 2015, and did not disclose its final dollar amount, saying only that the amount spent would fit within the state’s marketing budget, which it did not disclose to the Arizona Daily Sun. An Arizona Central story from 2015 noted that Michigan, hoping to distance itself from the image of a struggling Detroit, rebranded in 2009 and saw visitor spending increase by $5 billion per year in five years. 

A Colorado rebrand last decade cost $800,000 from the state’s tourism office, according to the Denver Post. 

Like Oklahoma, Colorado received much of its work for free via local volunteers — $1.5 million worth, state officials there estimated. 

“I don’t want to think about how much time I spent on this,” Sears said of the OklaX project. 

“But it was all worth it. I think it’s pretty amazing to bring together so many people on one project. It was an awesome experience. I made friends I never would have before.”

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan has two kids, three dogs, and no time to himself. He's fueled by QuikTrip and Twitter. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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