Not Just a Place…

Alaska, the state and its residents, are a novelty. This I know. From my four summers answering tourists’–ahem–I mean visitors’ questions at the visitor center in my hometown, to the questions asked of me in the Lower 48 after my origin is revealed, I know that Alaska has a mystique that some states just don’t have. Every day I’m thankful that no one asks me about Sarah Palin anymore. My first 2 years in the Lower 48 the round of Alaska questions would usually start with “So, is it really dark/daylight there all the time?” I came to love that question when the fall of 2008 hit and the questions became somehow related to Sarah. (Answers: No; no; and no way!) It took about 2 years for that to wear off. There are a ton of shows a person can watch to see and experience the Last Frontier from the comfort of their La-Z-Boy. And, why not? Because doesn’t Honey Boo Boo represent the state of Georgia? Maybe.

There are a few companies out there that use the largest state to brand their products. I came across this a couple of weeks ago in Target (in Ohio, mind you):

Alaska Knits socks

Could it be? It says “made in the U.S.A.” right there on the front! I flipped it over:

Mt. Airy, NC

North Carolina?!?! The Renfro Corporation is “a global leader in the design, manufacture, marketing, merchandising and selling of legwear products in North America and selected international markets.” (Congrats.) But, there’s no mention of Alaska-Knits(TM) on their website. What gives? C’mon, at least call your socks “Arktik Chill(TM)” or “Antarktika Woven(TM)” or how about “Penguins’ Choice(TM)?” Make something up if you’re going to make cold-weather socks in a southern state!

Ice cream, though, takes the cake when it comes to using abstract geographic names. Denali Flavors, located in Wayland, Michigan, has this to say about using the name of a national park (and mountain located in Alaska):

“We do support Denali National Park and the state of Alaska, though our support does not come in the form of a donation or volunteerism. Instead, it comes through the substantial advertisement and written recognition we give on our labels and our website. Several million impressions each year are made to consumers who see and buy our products and get a positive view of these natural resources. This exposure and positive promotion is much more substantial than any donation or time we could give.

“Denali Flavors will continue to promote the wonderful benefits of the state of Alaska and Denali National Park and will continue to serve as a vehicle for consumer awareness.”

(It’s the 2nd to last FAQ–I linked because I can’t make this stuff up.) Really? I’m pretty sure that the AWESOME flavors created by this company (Moosetracks, for example) is promoted by the state of Alaska and Denali National Park. Why else would you use the name? I’m pretty sure every time an ice cream cone is licked a tourist does NOT spend another dollar in Alaska.

It all goes to show you that Alaska isn’t just a place, but a state of mind and, unfortunately–or maybe fortunately for some–a brand.

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