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August 11, 2009

Pennsylvania promotion pickle: Bears, sure. But, tax-free shopping?

I recently posted about Inc magazine’s list of Memorable Marketing Moments and criticized many of them for being about sheer shock value or clear taunts to competitors. (read more Setting a Good Example:Marketing Campaigns to Remember)

So, I feel a little torn about the debate over one of Pennsylvania’s (my home state) recent tourism marketing campaigns. It seems that the state printed posters for the Tube in London advertising its bears and tax-free shopping. The slogan actually says: Pennsylvania. Home of Bears and Tax-Free Shopping.

I, for one, love the image. It is cute and punctuated with a funny, shopping bear graphic. So what’s the problem? Well, Delaware, our neighbor, is none too pleased as they are officially the State of Tax-Free shopping and many feel like PA’s new campaign is misleading at best.

For clarification purposes, PA does have tax-free shopping on food & clothing (and BTW drugs, textbooks, resale items and residential heating fuels), but not on restaurant tabs for example. And lord knows our state has plenty of bears.

I don't think it is similar to the very negative ones listed in the Inc list, but is this campaign misleading? Or maybe just insensitive to Delaware’s reputation and tourist calling card?

Have you had the experience of another business advertising messages similar to yours? As a business owner have you felt constricted on account of messages, words, or phrases already used by other businesses?

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