What is your Mount Rushmore?

South Dakota is an out-of-the-way place. It’s beautiful, but out of the way. Probably like you. Which is why the people of the state wanted to come with something to attract others to come see just how beautiful it is.

Doane ‘How you Do-ane’ Robinson had the idea to create Mount Rushmore. Ok, so they actually re-created Mount Rushmore. The carved it up and put the faces of American presidents on the mountain for national appeal. It was a crazy idea. And it worked like crazy.

Now, 2 million people each year make the the pilgrimage to far western South Dakota to see the great faces. In the process, many of them travel across the entire state, spending money at The Corn Palace, Wall Drug and some of the state’s finest prairie dog farms.

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Mount Rushmore is an amazing marketing idea. It is a man-made attraction that attracts visitors and their spending money from all over the world. But anyone can do what South Dakota did. Whether you are a state (you are probably not a state), a city, a brand, a business or a person trying to attract more attention, you can create your own Mount Rushmore. 

You can create something interesting, surprising or intriguing. You can do something unusual or epic. Provide value to others. Give people a good reason to come see you, and they will come see you. They will give you their time, money and attention. Then give them a great photo op and they will help spread the word for you for free. #hashtag

Key Takeaway. 

Big ideas and big actions lead to big rewards. By thinking bigger you can draw people to you, even if you are in an out-of-the-way place. Like South Dakota (Mount Rushmore) or Waco, Texas (Mount Chip and Joanna). Just give people something interesting to see or do. And they will give back to you much more in return.

*If you know someone, someplace, or some brand that could benefit from this post, please share it with them.

What is your St. Louis Arch?

I recently spent a long weekend in St. Louis with my family. It’s a great city with history, excellent food, interesting architecture and such. They have some of the best such in America. The city has a special place in my heart because 17 years ago I proposed to my wife, Dawn, under the St. Louis Arch.  Why would I choose The Arch as my proposal stage?

Top 5 reasons I proposed under the St. Louis Arch.

  1. I could afford to.
  2. It’s the Eiffel Tower of Missouri.
  3. It was April and the weather in St. Louis was way better than Wisconsin.
  4. It seemed better than the monkey house at the St. Louis Zoo.
  5. I heard that Lewis and Clark, one of the great American couples, started their adventure under the St. Louis Arch.

Back to the story.

My family and I enjoyed many of the great attractions of St. Louis: The afore-mentioned Zoo, Grant’s Farm, a great restaurant on The Hill, The City Museum (which is one of the most interesting, mind-opening places I’ve ever seen), historic St. Charles and, of course, The Arch.

The thing that stood out about St. Louis, above all else, was The Arch. It simply makes the city look different than any other city. It is the thing that makes the St. Louis brand memorable.  There are a lot of great cities in America, and the midwest is packed full of them. But it is hard to come up with the distinguishing feature of Detroit, Cincinnati, or Minneapolis. Other than the sitcoms that took place there.

Since proposing under the arch I have noticed just how much it is used as an American icon. Every time a commercial, TV show or movie wants to tell the ‘Sea-to-Shining-Sea’ story they include the following:

Icons that represent America

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • The St. Louis Arch
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • A lighthouse in Maine

Not only does the Arch represent St. Louis, for most coasters, it represents the entire Flyover Region of America. (I’ve always thought that ‘The Flyover Region’ sounded funny. Mostly because I imagine people working at Levis discussing the ‘Flyover Region’.  As in ‘We should put a fly over that region’.)

In the city itself, The Arch (aka the Gateway Arch and the Jefferson Expansion Memorial) is the symbol that represents the city. Which makes me wonder, why don’t more places create their own version of The Arch?

And if it works for cities, certainly it works for brands.  Far too few brands take the time to figure out the one thing that will set their brand apart. Of course there are brands that have their thang: A catchy jingle (Nationwide Insurance) Free returns for life (L.L. Bean), Ducks (The Peabody Hotel) Swedish Meatballs (Ikea).

I have spent my advertising career helping clients find the things that will help them stand out from the crowd.  But the same holds true for your personal brand. (And we all have a personal brand).  Do you have something that stands apart?  Do you do something, say something, wear something different?  Do you refuse to eat chocolate? Is one of your eyebrows actually a tattoo of a caterpillar? Do you have a memorable sign-off to your conversations?  If you don’t have anything I encourage you to spend some time thinking about it. Or better yet, try something. See if you like it. See if it sticks.

Today we have an abundance of options for everything. When travelers are looking for their next destination, The Arch helps St. Louis stand out from other great neighbors like Kansas City, Omaha, Memphis and Indianapolis.  Having your own Arch-like differentiator will help your business or personal brand stand out in the same way. If you’d like help finding your Arch, shoot me a note. If you’d like a great place for a weekend getaway, head to St. Louis.