State tourism officials … have unveiled the state’s for the year: Arrive a guest. Leave a Legend.
Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman says the idea is that once visitors cross the border into North Dakota, everything and anything is possible.
"Come to North Dakota," said the voice in my head. "We’re so boring you’ll finally seem cool." Maybe I’m misreading "return a legend."
Try to imagine how the ad would appeal to you. Has your life been suspiciously unspectacular until now? I guess your friends in Minneapolis think you’re just another guy. But you know there’s something else inside you… You just need the right place to let it out… You need someone who hasn’t seen you before.
At first, the phrase "return a legend" might seem like it’s targeted at habitual show-offs looking for more attention. But if you’ve got something to show off you don’t need to go to North Dakota to do it. The phrase is targeted at people hoping to become their real selves; they don’t care whether the people in Fargo remember them, just that the people back in Minneapolis see their new powers. In fact, the word legend is usefully inaccurate because it lets the target audience hide their thoughts.
People took offense at the picture above because they assumed the girls were the tourists, which makes the word "legend" sound like "slut". Either way, the glass window between them gives a subtle hint that this is about recognition, not connection (ie, they can’t hear each other yet). You don’t need to get to know the guys on the other side because they can already see you for who you are.
Do other states use their tourists (rather than their inhabitants) as their brand? New Jersey’s ads use the slogan Discover Another World that’s Closer to Home, South Dakota’s say Great Faces, Great Places, Louisiana’s say Pick your Passion; all of these emphasize the destination rather than the traveler. I don’t think North Dakota’s innovation will go uncopied.