Wisconsin Brand…Up for Grabs?

Posted on Apr 1, 2011 :: Editor
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Margaret LeBrun


Remember the “Escape to Wisconsin” bumper sticker? Also memorable: “Wisconsin – You’re Among Friends.” Then there was “Life’s So Good.”

“Live Like You Mean It” was the most recent slogan, but it was criticized for not being all that original, despite the marketing research that resulted in “Originality Rules” in Wisconsin.

Our new governor touts, “Wisconsin is open for business,” not as a tourist slogan but as the state mantra, presumably in an attempt to prove that we will not put up with whatever nonsense we were engaged in heretofore that might have sent a message that our shop has been closed the last decade. Certainly our state deficit is a problem and taxes ought to be lower, but in the last couple of years Wisconsin has actually moved out of the top 10 high-tax states, by most measures, and recently enacted new regulatory and business tax incentives.

Obviously, much has happened in the first quarter of this year in the Badger State – and with the national eye on us, the Wisconsin state brand is being redefined by the message we’re sending the rest of the world.

Many of our readers say Gov. Scott Walker is on the right track, making tough decisions nobody has had the guts to make before. But others say the approach between him and the state employee unions runs counter to the way we do things in Wisconsin.

Recently, the writings of Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, a leading authority on business strategy and the competitiveness of nations and regions, have circulated among an influential group of regional business and education leaders. The topic: “Creating Shared Value.” It stresses that all the various groups within a given community can best achieve their goals if they recognize each other’s needs and work to help each other.

What a concept. Instead of education viewing business as the enemy, or corporations looking at municipalities as adversaries, each might achieve their goals more efficiently if they start from the perspective that the other might (imagine!) be able to help them. (Porter describes the CSV concept in a YouTube video; click here in our digital magazine.)

Yet another approach to successful leadership has been the recent buzz in the region about the Servant Leader concept. It’s based on the notion that to be an influential leader, you must first respect the needs of those around you, such as your employees, vendors, customers and community. It’s a concept that has worked well for Skogen’s Festival Foods, among others, and it was the focus of a recent leadership conference in Green Bay. (Check out the LinkedIn group “Servant Leadership Wisconsin” at www.LinkedIn.com.)

Creating shared value, serving others first as a means to great leadership – these are concepts that ought to be considered as we look to find our way back to a sense of pride in Wisconsin this year. I won’t get into the “escape” metaphor here, but has it really been that long ago that we told the world, “Wisconsin: You’re Among Friends”?

On another note, I’d like to pay tribute to a friend, Ellen Zettel, who was a freelance contributor to Insight through last year. Ellen, who truly knew how to “live like you mean it,” died last month after a long illness. Her resume included years in newspapers and also corporate relations at ThedaCare, Kimberly-Clark, Schneider National, Kmart Corp., Whirlpool, Georgia-Pacific and Kohler, among others. Her insightful approach to business stories was something we truly valued. She will be missed.

Ellen’s high standards were indicative of the company she kept, and she exemplified the standards we set at Insight. Our staff and freelancers typically have 15 to 20 years or more of experience in business journalism. They’re always on the lookout for great stories to share, and they know how to bring them to life.

This issue marks the start of our fourth year with Insight. We hope to continue living up to the brand we have developed – a brand that helps keep you feeling connected to what matters most in our region

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →