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“It won’t be the Sunshine State Nation.”

By Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

A new state branding campaign will be unveiled Friday backed by an initial $10 million that touts Florida as a great place to grow a business.

Enterprise Florida, the state’s job-recruiting arm, will introduce the new campaign at its board meeting in Tallahassee. The new state business brand was fast-tracked, as Enterprise Florida quickly sifted through dozens of potential advertising agencies and, later, dozens of storyboard campaign ideas before picking one.Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 9.37.25 PM

Bill Johnson, Enterprise Florida CEO, had promised he would deliver a new chief marketing officer and a new state business branding campaign within his first year at the helm. With the hiring in October of Tampa Bay marketing veteran Joe Hice, formerly with the Moffitt Cancer Center and the person who led the team that created the University of Florida’s “Gator Nation” brand, Johnson is honoring his own timetable.

Enterprise Florida won’t share the branding campaign slogan in advance, but in an interview, Hice laughed as he promised this: “It won’t be the Sunshine State Nation.”

What it will be is a campaign that combines, after all the vetting, the surviving two ideas pitched by Jacksonville ad agency St. John & Partners, whose clients include the Florida Lottery, Zaxby’s and the Daytona International Speedway.

“There’s an urgency to get out there with the Florida story,” Hice says, “and to tell that business story over and over again.

“Florida has done a great job of promoting the state as a destination for families and tourists,” he says. “Now we have an opportunity to take advantage of that awareness and start telling the business story along with that other story.”

To many, a new state business branding campaign cannot come quickly enough. Florida stopped marketing the business scene here more than a year ago, even though the state is enjoying big-name corporate relocations and job growth in the past year second only to larger California. A previous attempt in 2013 to create and market a business brand by Enterprise Florida flubbed.

The campaign’s slogan was “Florida. The Perfect Climate for Business.” But it featured people wearing orange ties, which felt dated and alienated some businesswomen who felt it was not inclusive. And too many of the visual scenes in the campaign featured Florida sand, which many business leaders criticized for sending the wrong message —that the state was still a place dominated by tourists and retirees.

That campaign was also backed by just $1 million that Enterprise Florida set aside from its general budget.

The new campaign has more clout, backed by $10 million approved by the state Legislature. It includes $8.5 million in recurring funding, to help maintain the campaign over time — an unusual commitment for Florida’s here-today-gone-tomorrow funding style.

Other large-population states such as Texas and New York pitch their states to attract businesses with far larger budgets.

Hice says the new campaign involved extensive research, examining the recent data behind branding campaigns by Orlando, Jacksonville and other Florida cities, as well as extensive interviews with Florida business leaders, including Duke Energy Florida president Alex Glenn, and executives at TECO Energy and the Tampa Bay Partnership in this area.

The campaign will roll out quickly with ads in major business publications and on social media.

“This is not our campaign,” Enterprise Florida’s marketing chief says. “It is Florida’s campaign.”


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