Kansas Day and the State's Brand Personality.

Happy Kansas Day! Today, January 29, we celebrate the addition of Kansas into the Union as the 34th state. If you’ve been around me, you know I’ll eventually tell you I love Kansas. This got me thinking: Why do I love Kansas?

To be born somewhere reflects back on decisions made by parents. I was born in Missouri. Six weeks later, my parents moved to Wichita. As I thought today about why, it occurred to me that . . .

. . . all states have personalities.

An essential component of a good marketing campaign revolves around brand personality. I wrote an 80-page academic paper in business school about the power of brand personalities and the challenges behind them. So much goes into establishing and building brands and their equity that I don’t have time to recount them here.

I will say, however, that marketers distinguish brands by personifying them—by incorporate or associating human elements ergo making brands relatable and personable.

Even the United States of America has a branded personality; so do its constituent states. When you think about it it makes sense. Ask:

(1) What kind of personality does California have?

(2) What kind of personality does New York have?

(3) What kind of personality does Texas have?

(4) What kind of personality does Georgia have?

Were I to collect responses, I wager that, while the words used to describe the aforementioned states may differ, the general ideas or assumptions behind them point in the same direction. Here are my answers:

(1a) California, the Golden State, is chill and laid back.

(2a) New York, the Empire State, is fast-moving and hard-nosed.

(3a) Texas, the Lone Star State, is rugged and rough-necked—even its state nickname shouts “independence”.

(4a) Georgia, the Peach State, moves slowly and offers up incredibly polite manners.

So, then, I must conclude when thinking about a state, in this case my state, Kansas, I in some way like its brand, and its personality must also say something about me. Let’s explore.

Firstly my family and friends live in Kansas. I therefore love the state because that’s where my family and friends live. I’m tied to a tradition or culture here. I am, in my own way, part of Kansas history.

Secondly I grew up in Kansas. To be raised somewhere suggests an assumption that somehow that place is in you. From this I mean to say that somehow Kansas is in me—the personality of Kansas’s brand is in me. And when I think of Kansas, I think of its people—of Kansans—and my experiences with and as them: I think of kindness and friendliness; I think of warmth and thoughtfulness; I think of patient people who help others; I think of eras-gone-by values. Underlying these qualities lies the common denominator of a cooperation rooted in an agrarian culture where survival demanded collaboration. Helping others, making friends, and treating people thoughtfully—these are essential when battling against nature for survival. Today, two percent of Kansans farm, but they produce 40 percent of the nation’s wheat. So 98 percent of Kansans aren’t directly farmers, right? Still, many of those 98 percent do business with or for the 2 percent. The best way I know of to work with honest people is to embody the honesty they personify.

Those of us here, now, have ancestors who farmed; and, if I am to subscribe to anthropology’s definition of “culture” as “knowledge transmission” (Clifford Geertz), then it is safe to assume the values from previous generations were passed to us. The same qualities that sustained the agrarian society bolster and fuel the service economy. So today the cultures from our forebearers carry us as we interact with each other. (This is not to say other states don’t have or share similar values; I’m certain they do. And I must be clear, too, that there are some boneheaded Kansans [probably Missouri transfers like me though]).

To summarize, when I think of Kansas I think of Kansans.

Thirdly I’m proud of the state’s contributions abroad. As the “Breadbasket of the World”, Kansas produces around 328 million bushels of wheat per year. One bushel makes 42 pounds of white flour. And 42 pounds of white flour makes 22,960,000,000 loaves of bread. The average human being needs between 5 oz. and 10 oz. of grain products per day, so Kansas farmers feed lots of people.

Fourthly my alma mater, the University of Kansas, destroys people in basketball. And I had the privilege of teaching at Wichita State University while earning advances degrees 

These aren’t the only reasons I love Kansas, but they’re the ones that came to mind while thinking about why I care. I borrowed many of my wheat statistics from “The National Festivals of Bread” page about wheat.

So, HAPPY KANSAS DAY! I hope you love living here as much as I do!


Parker McConachieComment