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RI's Chief Marketing Officer Defends - And Apologizes For - Troubled Tourism Push

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Betsy Wall, Rhode Island's chief marketing officer, apologized Thursday for the troubled rollout of the state's new $5 million push to promote tourism

Betsy Wall, Rhode Island's chief marketing officer, apologized Thursday for the troubled rollout of the state's new $5 million push to promote tourism 

while also predicting that the campaign will ultimately be successful.

"The strategy for getting people to view Rhode Island, to consider Rhode Island once again as a leisure destination for spending money, in a very, very competitive marketplace, that is absolutely on track," Wall said in an interview at Rhode Island Public Radio. "Mistakes were made, there's no doubt about that .... It was sloppy, it distracted, but the campaign itself, the strategy, is going to be very, very impactful, and Rhode Island is back in the game after quite a few years." 

The Boston Globe and scores of other media outlets have outlined the negative reaction to the branding campaign unveiled during a Monday meeting of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, the state's economic development agency. In particular, a logo with the slogan "Cooler and Warmer" drew a less-than-enthusiastic welcome, a promotional video featured a brief clip shot in Iceland, and a revision to the state's tourism web site was rife with errors.Listen to chief marketing officer Betsy Wall talk on an extended version of RIPR's Political Roundtable with Ian Donnis, Scott MacKay, and Maureen Moakley

Meanwhile, as WPRI.com's Ted Nesi reported, Governor Gina Raimondo declined Thursday to express confidence in Wall.

"The errors were unacceptable -- there needs to be accountability, and there will be," said Raimondo's spokeswoman, Marie Aberger. "We are evaluating next steps."

"We’re focused on making this comprehensive, coordinated marketing effort as successful as possible, and it’s great the public is so passionate and engaged," Aberger added in a statement. "We are committed to taking feedback into account and to getting this right so we produce a campaign Rhode Islanders are proud of."

Wall was asked whether the problem-plagued unveiling is the kind of thing that sparks negativity among Rhode Islanders.

"I can't speak for every single person in Rhode Island, but I can apologize for the mistakes that were made in this," she said. "I absolutely stand by the strategy and the tactics that will be deployed in this campaign .... They are effective. They already have been effective in some measurements. They will be effective and they will build on the existing strengths of Rhode Island's tourism sector."

Wall, a resident of Winchester, Massachusetts, whose resume includes experience working for former US senators Claiborne Pell and John Kerry, was hired last December as Rhode Island's $135,000 chief marketing officer. She was previously executive director of the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

"I think 'unfortunate' is an excellent choice of words," to describe how things went wrong, Wall said.

The logo with the "Cooler and Warmer" tagline, designed by name brand designer Milton Glaser, "was tested by a professional agency that is based in New York," she said.

"Mistakes were clearly made in the rollout -- that goes without saying -- but I do want to make the point that in fact that Rhode Island residents, Rhode Island visitors, New Englanders with an interest in visiting Rhode Island, and business people were surveyed, and that particular tagline and that art mark had a more than 60 percent favorability rating. They out-performed other tested taglines and marks. I don't want to discount the opinions of people who are taking to social media, but it wouldn't be the first time that the more negative voices are the loudest voices."  

Wall declined to discuss the reaction of Governor Raimondo to the flawed rollout of the tourism effort. "Well, I'm not [going to get] into any personal discussions," she said.

The chief marketing officer blamed the volume of errors in a revised state tourism web site on how it was "re-skinned" with new photos and a new design, but without fact-checking.

This post has been updated.

RI's Chief Marketing Officer Defends - And Apologizes For - Troubled Tourism Push
RI's Chief Marketing Officer Defends - And Apologizes For - Troubled Tourism Push