Connecticut aims to foster local pride with 'Make It Here' campaign
Inside the Bristol Bazaar, long tables are covered with handmade products from more than 50 vendors, arranged beside Christmas trees, garland and other festive decor.
The business is a showcase for local makers, and it features everything from handmade earrings to succulents in animal-shaped pots.
Care Verikas and her husband opened the space in July. And while it hasn't been open long, it's the kind of place state officials want to highlight in their new push to shape Connecticut's image.
Gov. Ned Lamont and staff from the Department of Economic and Community Development recently visited the market to launch the state's new "Make It Here" branding campaign. Two of their goals for the initiative are to increase state pride, and create a clear-cut identity for Connecticut, said Anthony Anthony, the state's chief marketing officer.
“We want people to recognize that there's a lot more to this state than they expect," he said.
Connecticut businesses are a major focus of the campaign, which highlights products made in the state, ranging from helicopters to renowned pizza.
Advertisements will appear on billboards, on Metro-North trains and at Bradley Airport. The campaign also includes social media ads, public contests, grants and "experiential" opportunities, according to an announcement.
“The thing for me that’s amazing is the exact focus on people that are making things with their hands in the state,” Verikas said.
The state's last branding effort, the “Still Revolutionary” campaign, which ran from 2012 to 2019, was less focused on the local economy.
Chris DiPentima, CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said he's excited to see businesses highlighted in the new ads.
“I think it will really help charge the business community cause," he said. "There's a lot of optimism out there amongst our membership.”
The new marketing push was prompted in part by a recent survey that suggests local pride is lacking in Connecticut. Only about half of residents who responded to the poll said they're proud of the state. Less than a quarter said they would recommend Connecticut to others, even though most said it's a good place to live.
“Pride is what our new state brand and the ‘Make It Here’ campaign is all about,” Lamont wrote in a LinkedIn post. “I want the world to know who we are, what we do, and what we stand for, and for our residents to be proud of it.”
The department set aside $1.8 million to develop the new brand and pay for advertising.
“We are trying to be as efficient and prudent with our usage of taxpayer dollars as possible,” Anthony said.
The campaign includes a short video, titled "The Makers Manifesto," which bills Connecticut as a place of "artistic triumphs" and "scientific breakthroughs in medicine and aerospace." A narrator adds that the state is also "one of the best places on earth to build a family, a business, a home."
Nick Lurie, a marketing professor at the University of Connecticut, said the campaign targets several audiences. But there's a risk the state's messaging might be too broad.
“They're trying to appeal to both businesses and families, kind of all takers," he said, "and maybe they have to as a state government, but it's not going to be as effective as if they could be more targeted."
Verikas said's she excited about one distinctive feature of the campaign: the new logo. It looks like a letter “C” with a sideways "T" cut into it. Businesses can change the color and incorporate their own branding.
Verikas said the logo can be unifying for the business community.
“It shows that we're still all in this together,” Verikas said. “Yes, we're all doing the same thing, but you can have your own spin on it.”
The state plans to survey people again in a year to gauge how Connecticut’s image has changed.
When she was launching her market, Verikas found it hard to make business connections and get help developing her concept. With Connecticut's new marketing push, Verikas said she thinks it'll be easier for entrepreneurs to find resources in the future.
“I think that helps tremendously,” she said. “And I think our mission just really aligns with what the state is now working towards and working on.”