Big Sky Country has much more to offer than nothing

 By Dan Killoy

     The adage that “I‘ve lived long enough to see the ultimate – [__________], fill in the blank, now lets me fill in the blank with, “The dumbest marketing slogan of all time!!!!!.” Montana’s newest tourism marketing slogan, ‘There’s nothing here,’ has finally tipped the stupidity scale over.

     It reminds me of the episode of Seinfield, where George and Jerry approached the Madison Avenue TV executives with a new idea for a show. When asked what the show was about, the hopeful rookie writers replied with a dimwit look on their faces, “Nothing. The show is a bout nothing, nothing at all. Are lives are filled with doing nothing, we are nothing experts. No one knows more about nothing than we do.” Thus you have a TV sitcom.
     The genius who came up with ‘There’s nothing here’ and the state’s tourism marketing arm, Travel Montana, who agreed to pay close to a million smackers, $800,000, evidently spend too much time watching re-runs of Seinfeld and not getting their couch potato frames outside to have a look at ‘More than you can imagine.’
     Yes, that is what all of the hard-working folks who drive the tourist industry in Montana on a daily basis have to deal with. The task of having to develop a message that fits into a small space in a national magazine, or a short sound byte on radio or TV, that will capture the essence of ‘More than you can imagine.’ Their task is to encapsulate the splendor of Glacier, the history of Butte, the many blue river trout streams, the rolling plains and sandstone beauty in eastern Montana, dinosaur digs in central Montana, Custer Country, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Charlie Russell country, the Bitterroot Valley. I had better stop now before I run out of space to describe what they are dealing with; it’s almost ‘More than you can imagine.’     
     I am sure that at no time did they struggle with describing their product, ‘Montana.’ Yes, they are selling Montana, with the word ‘Nothing.’
Just the other day when I came back from lunch, one of the staff asked what I had for lunch, my reply was, ‘ah nothing.’ Well it really wasn’t nothing, it was a peanut butter sandwich – nothing out of the ordinary, nothing special, nothing I cared to remember or describe in great detail, basically average, or maybe below average (the bread was kind of stale.)
Now, if lunch had consisted of fresh, ripe, off-the-vine tomatoes, hickory-smoked bacon, on homemade bread with fresh whipped mayonnaise, I surely would have told you about it, in great detail. I’d even bet that there would be no chance of me using the word ‘Nothing’ to describe my better-than-average, worth-seeing-again-the-next-day, mouth-watering, sooo-good lunch.
     I’ve struggled for hours trying to come up with a scenario using ‘Nothing’ in a positive sentence. Not to be deterred, here it is: “I had nothing to do with that slogan.”
     This kind of reminds me of the lament of the old Irish mother: “I give everything, ask for nothing, and nothing is what I get.” Well, the taxpayers of Montana gave everything, ‘$800,000, asked for something, and got NOTHING.
     Of course, this is just my humble opinion and it just might mean ‘NOTHING.’ 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dan Killoy is publisher of The Terry Tribune, Miles City Star and  Forsyth Independent Press.

Published May 20, 2009

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