Haslam on L’affaire Logo: Consistent State Gov’t Branding Image Needed

After addressing the matter Wednesday for the first time publicly since Watchdog.org broke the story last month, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam took a couple more questions from reporters Thursday on the controversial decision to pay an outside firm $46,000 to design a new state logo.

The governor said there really ought to be just one logo for state government agency use, and that’s by no means the case now.

“As a state, we have a 172 different logos, alright. One hundred and seventy-two,” said Haslam. He added that “over the last 20 years those have all been redesigned once or twice, but nobody pays attention to that because they are all spread out.”

The governor said it is common knowledge in professional marketing circles that uniformity in branding is important.

“We need to have a consistent source of identification for the state,” Haslam said after a grant-announcement ceremony on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College.

“We want people to look and if they see a truck driving down the road, or a building, and immediately know, that that’s the state of Tennessee,” he said.

Haslam was asked why the logo design assignment wasn’t given to a state employee rather than hiring an outside firm.

“We could have,” the governor replied. “Anybody can look at it and say ‘Well, I don’t like that logo.’ And you do that with new product logos all the time, right? One of the big questions that came up was why didn’t you just use the tristar that everybody likes so much. The issue is that’s not something we can trademark. If we have our own logo for identification, it needs to be something we can trademark.”

The controversy over the logo hit a nerve in the state. Both Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly have criticized the Haslam administration over on the issue — suggesting that the $46,000 pricetag didn’t seem a wise was to spend taxpayer resources.

“My granddaughter Marley Mac is working on her own version of a new logo for #TN,” tweeted House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “Only cost me a piece of gum.”

“We waste way too much time on the branding of ideas, not the ideas,” opined Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis.

Conservative West Tennessee Republican Andy Holt issued a press release in the days after the story broke slamming the administration for not broaching the matter with lawmakers beforehand.

“Almost $50,000 worth of taxpayer dollars were, in my opinion, wasted, and not a single tax-payer had a voice in the matter,” declared the Dresden state representative. “The bigger issue is how it was wasted. This was done behind closed doors. When questioned, journalists were initially met with resistance. Is this how we govern? If so, this reeks of Washington D.C. — Out of touch, and overpriced.”