By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
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By Patricia Calhoun
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You won't find any mention of pot on the state's official tourism site, Colorado.com — but you won't find the new Colorado brand there, either. "The Peak," otherwise known as the green carbon-dioxide hazmat sign, which was unveiled last August to much derision, has been rolled out slowly as the 22 state departments and their sub-departments need to replace cards, stationery, signs. Over the years, those departments had created dozens of looks and logos, some using the state seal, some playing off the state flag, some ignoring both. It seemed like whenever a department (or its sub-) changed heads, the first thing the new director wanted was a new logo.
Which was pretty much what happened when Aaron Kennedy became Colorado's chief marketing officer. When the Noodles & Co. founder took the job, Governor John Hickenlooper charged him to come up with a "brand created by Colorado to unite Colorado," a brand that would put all departments and divisions of the state on the same page and get rid of the motley mess of logos. The single brand would also be something that Colorado-born or Colorado-based companies could use to make their mark. From the start, a variation on the state seal was ruled out; that was saved for really official business. Nor could the Colorado flag be waved; since that symbol was already in the public domain, Kennedy explains, the state could have no control over how it was used. And so Kennedy led an all-Colorado crew on what was billed as the most ambitious branding effort ever undertaken by a state, with dozens of experts volunteering $1.5 million in time and talent; the Colorado Tourism Office was volunteered to pay $800,000 for research. The result? The Peak. "We created a unified brand logo, which is almost universally loved," Hickenlooper pronounced at his State of the State speech two weeks ago. "Two hundred companies have requested to use the brand already, and 117 of Colorado's companies are already using it."
But it's one thing to have a mark that businesses can choose to incorporate into their packaging and promotion; in fact, the Department of Agriculture already has the successful Colorado Proud program, whose logo will have to be switched out for the new brand once that program runs out of stickers and signs for local produce stands. It's quite another to make Coloradans stand by their new brand. And as the criticism of the new logo grew (fortunately, the accompanying slogan — "It's Our Nature," which echoes a recent Cabela's campaign — seems to have disappeared entirely), an incredible wave of affection for the state flag suddenly inundated this state.
Literally, when the floods came in September: Almost every relief effort, almost every fundraising campaign, used some variation of the C in the state flag to advertise their efforts, to show that they would help Colorado return to solid ground. Almost every effort, that is, but the official state site, coloradounited.com, the first to incorporate the new brand.
Representative Bob Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale, saw that enthusiasm for the flag at town-hall meetings across his district — and saw almost none for the new brand.
That's why he decided to introduce HB 1071 on the first day of the session, which "will take the decision to the people." If the proposal passes, it would suspend the branding program until Coloradans can vote on whether they want the new logo. If voters decide they don't, the state could embark on a new branding program.
"I really feel like this should go before the people," he says. "We may not get it out of committee, but I just wanted to give it an airing."