SayWhat? no SayWA!

(Based on a articles from the Puget Sound Journal of Business, MSNBC and other publications)

Advertising slogans and labels are peculiar, pesky, unpredictable and often have a life of their own. At the very least, successful ones usually require a lot of support, patience and savvy marketing.

The Washington State Tourism Office this week announced a new $442,000 ad campaign and catch phrase — “SayWA” that has left some business leaders enthusiastic and entertained and others wondering who is making the decisions for the state.

The campaign is the result of a year of focus groups, surveys and research by visitor bureaus, hoteliers and Seattle-based advertising agency Foote Cone & Belding.

When looking for perspective, Puget Sound Business Journal,,  went to Washington State University marketing professor Darrel Muehling, who studied the research data but didn’t pull any punches. Muehling told the PSJB: “I don’t think that’s a positive image or that Washington state would want to be associated with it.”

Another problem for Muehling is that those who created the SayWA slogan are assuming people from outside the state know that “WA” stands for Washington.

“I have trouble with that,” he told PSBJ. “If I say ‘Wazzu,’ people from here know I mean WSU. If I say ‘U-Dub,’ people in Seattle know I mean the University of Washington.”

At the time Muehling provided his insights ‘Endless Discoveries’ was the theme that was being strongly discussed. Today, he wonders how it moved from ‘Endless Discoveries’ to ‘SayWA.’ 

One hotel vice president thinks the committee did a “terrific job selecting (SayWA) given what the state has to offer and finding a way to say it as simply as possible.” He told the PSBJ that he thought SayWa was “very catchy” and “broad enough to encapsulate a lot of what’s here in Washington state. It provokes thinking. It gets people’s juices flowing.”

What did WSU employees think?

In last week’s WSU Today Poll, here’s how WSU Today employees voted on the topic:

What do you think of Washington’s new tourism ad campaign slogan ‘Say WA?’ 
* It’s hot, I love it.  1 (1.5%)
* Who knows?   4 (6.1%)
* It stinks. Just say, ‘No!’.  61 (92.4%)

Other newspaper articles on SayWa

Articles on the SayWA and Muehling can be found at:
* Puget Sound Business Journal,
* The Seattle Times at
* MSNBC at; Adweek, * Adweek’s Adfreak at
* The Spokesman-Review
* State citizens offer their own suggestions at

Muehling will be honored with a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Advertising, honoring his research and contributions to the advertising industry. He is one of 14 people to receive this award since the AAA was founded in 1958.

Setting the tourism advertising pace are a few well established campaigns like “I love New York” and Montana’s “Big Sky Country.” Currently on the tube is the extended life of Las Vegas’ ever-so-tacky campaign “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.” 

When it comes to memorable product slogans, there’s hundreds like the Dairy Industry’s “Got milk?,” AlkaSelzer’s “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” Campbell’s age-old “M’m M’m Good,” and KFC’s “Finger-lickin’ good.”

If you want to test your memory, go to Brain Candy Word Play at and see if you can complete the phrase.

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