New slogan misses Mississippi’s mark

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A new sign greets you when you cross into Natchez from Louisiana now.

“The Birthplace of America’s Music,” it boasts.

Hmm, did I take a wrong turn into Ferriday?

Sure, Mississippi has some great musicians. Delta Blues and Elvis Presley made our state famous.

But neither King (B.B. or “the”) has very strong ties to Natchez.

And for that matter, the state’s great musicians have little to do with our sandy gulf coast, our northeastern foothills or any of the central part of the state surrounding our capital.

In fact, our musical history is basically tied to Elvis’ birthplace of Tupelo and the Mississippi Delta.

Tupelo — the new jewel of economic success in our state — is well equipped to handle tourists ready to hear America’s Music, I’m sure.

The shrinking population in the economically deprived Delta is not.

So our new Mississippi slogan not only excludes 80 percent of our great state, but it directs out-of-towners likely coming to the state with a head full of barefoot Mississippi stereotypes to our poorest, most unprepared, region.

The Mississippi Development Authority seemed well aware of this in a report they issued a few years prior to rolling out the new state slogan.

The new tourism campaign is what they call “niche marketing.”

Instead of marketing Mississippi as a whole, MDA decided to push just a few segments of Mississippi life.

As they explained it, good sense isn’t involved in travel decisions.

“Because humans are powered by emotion, not reason, our idea is to spark emotions that will translate into travel decisions,” a 2007 report says.

Hmph. Speak for yourself.

But the signs are up, and the branding is under way, with or without us non-musicians.

Since the “Welcome to Mississippi” sign in Natchez now seems to direct tourists right up U.S. 61 North and into the Delta, maybe the locals pushing regionalism have more fuel for their fire.

If Natchez — the oldest and perhaps most touristy settlement on the river — isn’t the niche Mississippi has chosen, why not partner with the other half of the Miss-Lou and keep the tourism dollars local.

Surely Ferriday’s Mayor McGlothin would foot the bill for a U-turn sign posted just off the bridge in Natchez right below Mississippi’s “The Birthplace of America’s Music” — a sign directing music fans to highly musical Ferriday.

Once tourists get their fill of Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousins in Ferriday, McGlothin and crew could talk up Pilgrimage and antebellum homes in Natchez.

All the while, we’ll be passing tourists through Vidalia for gas and great Subway sandwiches.

What better niche than a tight-knit community working together to promote each other?

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.