Online campaign seeks to give Kentucky's image a little kick

jpatton1@herald-leader.comDecember 19, 2012 

Whit Hiler, left, and Griffin VanMeter of Kentucky for Kentucky are in a feisty mood for a new state motto. How does "Kentucky Kicks Ass" sound?


  • Kentucky for Kentucky's 'Kentucky Kicks Ass' video

    Watch the video: See the "Kentucky Kicks Ass" video at

Kentucky, are you ready for a kick in the pants?

That's what the state-pride group called Kentucky for Kentucky wants to know.

Kentucky for Kentucky is behind the "Kick-Ass Kentuckians" campaign on Facebook and elsewhere, and an effort earlier this year to buy a Super Bowl ad promoting the state through crowd-funding. That project fell short, with only about $112,000 raised, but it did catch the eye of state tourism and promotion officials with its fervor. [Read USA Today's coverage of this story.]

Now, the group has launched a new online effort.

The idea: a new image for the state. Ditch "Unbridled Spirit," the slogan launched in 2004 under Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Put some authentic Kentucky spirit out there, if you can take it.

"With the help of some kick-ass Kentuckians, we've rebranded the great commonwealth of Kentucky," Kentucky for Kentucky announced on Facebook. "Now it's time to straight crush it. Now it's time to officially tell EVERYONE you know — KENTUCKY KICKS ASS."

Whit Hiler of Cornett-IMS and Griffin VanMeter of Bullhorn Creative describe themselves as "the commonwealth's elite marketing team." The two men open a tongue-in-cheek video by announcing the campaign on the steps of the state Capitol in Frankfort.

"When you think of Kentucky, what words come to mind?" the pair ask as various images are superimposed on the screen. "Couch-burning. Kentucky Fried Chicken. Bowie knives. Mustaches. Horses. Abe Lincoln. George Clooney. Zombies. ... That chick in The Hunger Games."

According to the five-minute video, the team has been "tasked to develop a viable tagline and brand for the great commonwealth of Kentucky. Our goals are simple: to increase tourism, to foster pride, to attract new business, to diminish stereotypes, to unify the state and to distinguish Kentucky from any other place on the planet."

Their question: What words would you use to describe Kentucky?

Kentuckians as varied as garden guru Jon Carloftis, Ernie "Turtle Man" Brown Jr., writer Ed McClanahan and a girl named Kelly who is identified as a "descendant of Clooney" respond: "Kentucky kicks ass."

Back up a minute. Tasked by whom? The state?

"We're working on that part of it," VanMeter said Wednesday, just after the video went live on Facebook.

He said that Lindy Casebier, deputy secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet, has seen the video. No word yet from Casebier on whether he thinks it will fly with Frankfort.

VanMeter said that the main goal is to persuade the state that it's time to ditch "Unbridled Spirit" for something edgier (but more positive than "Roadkill Bingo").

"The people have spoken," VanMeter said.

The video — available on Kentucky for Kentucky's Facebook page, on YouTube and Vimeo channels, and on its website, — had been shared and viewed hundreds of times by Wednesday afternoon.

Van Meter said the time is right for a more democratic (little "d," not big "D" or big "R") slogan, something that bubbles up, trips off the lips, sings to the subversive soul.

Something like "Don't Mess with Texas" or "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas."

"Kentucky Kicks Ass," he says, "is a rallying cry."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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