Redesigned license plates are no longer part of the immediate plan to build an Oklahoma brand.
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell said this week that although new license plates may be in Oklahoma’s future, they won’t be rolled out in early 2020 because transportation officials typically recommend replacing the plates every five years.
The scissor-tailed flycatcher plates, designed by a local advertising firm, were distributed in 2017.
Pinnell, who previously indicated new license plates could be part of a cohesive Oklahoma brand, said designing new plates ended up not being part of the branding conversation.
“There’s been very little to no talk about that,” he said. “That’s all in future years. That’s not a part of the 2020 plan at all.”
If the state pursues new license plates in the future, Pinnell said the design work will likely be put out for bid.
Pinnell, who doubles as the state’s secretary of branding and tourism, tapped more than 100 of the state’s top creative professionals to create Oklahoma’s new brand, which will include a new state logo, slogan and welcome signs to be installed on state highways.
The group of creative professionals, OklaX, are volunteering their time to work on the project.
Oklahomans also won’t see a new state flag as part of the branding effort.
Public records on the branding initiative obtained by The Oklahoman show documents directing OklaX creatives to design a state flag in addition to other “deliverables.” But Pinnell said the language about a state flag should never have been included.
“The focus of the branding effort is not in a flag,” he said. “Is that something in the years ahead that some people may want to look at? Possibly, but that’s nothing we are looking at right now.”
Oklahoma’s new brand is on track to be unveiled in January or February with the goal of creating uniform branding across all of state government, Pinnell said.
Pinnell recently presented several of the top options, which will soon be tested in focus groups, to Gov. Kevin Stitt.
“We want the focus group to hopefully, reinforce to us what we currently like,” he said.
Pinnell hopes the brand can help Oklahoma attract more jobs and tourists. He already plans on using the brand to launch Oklahoma advertising campaigns in out-of-state airports that are just a nonstop flight away.
The OklaX verbal team was tasked with crafting Oklahoma’s new slogan, to replace earlier slogans like “Native America” and “Oklahoma is OK,” Whitney Emerick, the group’s leader, said. The verbal team created a spreadsheet of all 50 state slogans and then brainstormed the best slogan for Oklahoma, said Emerick, corporate communications director at Public Service Co. of Oklahoma.
The OklaX visual team started like most design processes start, with hundreds of logo concepts and sketches and numerous color schemes, said Sarah Sears, the group’s leader. Those ideas were whittled down to the top four, said Sears, the founder and principal of S Design Inc. in Oklahoma City.
In May, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department hired international branding firm, Operative Brand Consulting, to lead Oklahoma’s creative professionals in crafting the brand, including facilitating the August OklaX summit.
Pinnell said he was looking for a firm with experience in large-scale rebranding projects that had no existing biases toward Oklahoma. To make sure he didn’t alienate any Oklahoma companies from the process, he intentionally sought an out-of-state company.
The tourism department agreed to pay the Canadian company up to $335,000 and cover up to $80,000 in expenses. The state — through a mix of funding from the Department of Commerce, tourism department and possibly, funds from Oklahoma business groups — has paid Operative less than half of what the contract allows, Pinnell said.
Pinnell said he’s been impressed with Operative’s work, which will end this month.
Sears compared Operative to a project manager that has kept OklaX participants on track and equipped them with everything they need to build the state’s brand.
“For us, I don’t think there’s any way you could have this many people from different teams that haven’t worked together without some pretty excellent facilitation, and that’s what they’re providing,” she said.