I just learned something listening to Roy Spence speak at the PPAI virtual trade show. “Don’t Mess With Texas” is a saying that is not as old as I would have expected (1986) and it originated, not as a slogan for Texas bravado, pride and power, but as an anti-littering advertising campaign. Roy Spence helped develop that campaign and when he was pitching was asked “where’s the litter barrel on the bumper sticker?” He replied;
“You’ve got two choices. You can have the litter barrel on the bumper sticker and the bumper sticker will be in storage, or you can not have the barrel on the bumper sticker and every pick-up in Texas will have Don’t Mess With Texas.”
The campaign worked reducing litter on the roads by 72% by 1990. The phrase was trademarked by the Texas Department of Transportation in 2002. And, the campaign continues today.
Some take-aways from the “Don’t Mess” Campaign regarding promotional stickers and sticker marketing:
• Know your target market and create a badge not an ad for them. Young men aged 16-24 were the main targets of the anti littering campaign. A “Don’t Litter Texas” campaign simply would not have worked. “Don’t Mess With Texas” (with no mention of Department of Transportation) was a badge and could be worn (displayed) with pride.
• Promotional stickers need to tie-in with other marketing. The “Don’t Mess With Texas” bumper stickers may not have communicated the problem and desired response, but the print ads, t.v. ads, trash cans, and other marketing did. It is one thing to have a cool sticker that resonates with a target market and start conversations, but to be effective there needs to be awareness of the actual problem, solution, organization or product.
• If you’ve got a unique slogan or catch phrase that is taking the world by storm protect it with a trademark so it can’t be hijacked or used for profit from another company. It is often unnecessary to protect a sticker idea, but this campaign reminds us it is sometimes very prudent.
• Though this campaign is over 30 years old it is still strong and effective today. In many ways as a sticker campaign it would do even better today. when marketing to millennials word of mouth is more powerful than ever and there are an increasing amount of applications for displaying stickers/badges beyond vehicle bumpers.
Read more about the story of the “Don’t Mess With Texas” Campaign HERE.
What bumper sticker slogan could get everyone talking about you? Let’s brainstorm!