Yeah, the taxes may be low. Labor is cheap. And the state may be getting rid of regulations.
But a study commissioned by Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration concludes those factors aren’t ultimately what sells Arizona to businesses and tourists. What closes the deal is the Arizona lifestyle.
So efforts are underway to revamp the message.
The move comes nearly a year after the Arizona Commerce Authority hired the branding consultant, Kathy Heasley, for $250,000.
Her original assignment was to come up with the kind of catchphrase that has helped to define other states, like “I (Heart) NY” or “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
The idea was to come up with a single selling point for Arizona that would work for everything from promoting tourism to getting companies to relocate here.
But something unexpected occurred when Heasley went out to ask people what they like about Arizona.
Sure, there was the talk about places like the Grand Canyon. But what came across from the open-ended questions were feelings and emotions about the Arizona lifestyle.
In Tucson, for example, people commented about how they love what they do. “But I come home and I sit on my back porch and the mountains are all lit up and I have a glass of wine with my wife,”’ Heasley quoted a Tucsonan who was part of a group discussion.
It was a bit different, she said, for those who live in the Phoenix area. But there, too, the things people said they like about Arizona were related to quality of life.
For example, Heasley said, one person commented about getting to live in a major metropolitan area and have a good career. “And I can be home in time to hang out with my son,”’ Heasley quoted the respondent.
“A lot of those people have come from other places where there is no family life because you’re driving two hours, one way coming and one way going,” Heasley said.
She said Arizona needs to scrap the kind of advertising that every other state uses to promote economic development — all the stuff about a healthy business climate, low costs and a willing workforce — and instead sell images, feelings and heart.
She compared it to buying a car. Sure, it may get great gas mileage. And it might have been a fantastic deal. “But it’s gorgeous,” Heasley said, with that being the clincher.
And what of the catchphrase the governor originally asked for?
Forget about it, Heasley said, saying it makes no sense to try to distill the essence of the Arizona lifestyle into a single word or phrase.
That, then, goes to the issue of explaining what Arizona is.
Heasley found that the image of the state of people elsewhere largely comes down to three things: retirement, the desert and the Grand Canyon.
“But obviously there’s a lot beyond that that’s changed in the last 30 to 40 years, that we’re not just a place with retirement communities,” said gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato. “People don’t necessarily know that who are in Chicago and have never come to the state, or haven’t been here in a long time.”
And they won’t know that based on the messages Arizona is now sending out, messages focused solely on the pro-business climate.
“We’re really not appropriately advertising ourself,” Scarpinato said.
This isn’t just speculation, Scarpinato said.
“The business executives, the people who Kathy talked to who are here in the state ... and also the people we want to attract, for them it was also a lifestyle issue,” he said.
And that means getting out the message that, put simply, life’s better here.
That’s the kind of message that is likely to resonate with new firms where the corporate culture includes attracting and keeping good workers, Scarpinato said.
“A big part of it is where their employees want to live and what the lifestyle’s like,” he said. “So if we can make the case to a business executive that, yeah, taxes are lower — and you also can be home at 6 o’clock and be with your family — then that’s a great argument that we’re positioned to make that some other states aren’t.”
“It’s going to be a new approach to how we market the state on all the platforms where we’re spending millions of dollars,” he said.