Monday, April 4, 2016

Benching Panda: cooler or warmer?

The 2016 MLB season - and the opportunity for the Red Sox to once again contend for a playoff berth - is finally here. It was a relatively quiet spring - without Manny’s grandmother dying (again), drama around injuries or who is or who isn't the staff ace - the time in Florida passed quickly. The one big exception was that Pablo (Panda) Sandoval, the $95 million third baseman, showed up to camp a little weightier than one would have hoped. While the team's statements optimistic early on, Panda was forced to compete for his job and ultimately lost it to Travis Shaw. While the ramifications of benching gold-plated Panda while league-minimum Shaw covers 3rd remain to be seen, I have to give the Red Sox credit for wanting to field a win-now team regardless of the criticism that might come their way for leaving so much money sitting on the bench. After all, they are wasting millions of dollars keeping Panda on the shelf.

One has to think that similar thoughts were being discussed in state government last week before deciding to put cooler/ warmer back on the shelf and dismiss the person who was managing the project. Like many Rhode Islanders, I am not sure what cooler & warmer meant (which may reflect my uncoolness) but I was certainly willing to see how it would roll out. After all, what do you think people said about "Virginia is for lovers" when it was introduced?

But cooler/ warmer never stood a chance once it was discovered that Reykjavík was proudly featured in Little Rhody’s movie (and surprisingly Reykjavikville is not a village in the Blackstone Valley). Any momentum generated by the campaign was channeled into mocking the website, tag line, logo and everyone associated with the creation of this collateral. While the governor initially defended the design and the plan, too many mistakes soon revealed themselves and by week’s end, cooler/ warmer was dead and the state’s Chief Marketing Officer had resigned.

While many in the advertising and design business have bemoaned the outcry over the logo and the tagline, noting correcting that rebranding almost never goes well, I think it was good for the governor to acknowledge the public outcry. Let’s face it, we know what makes Rhode Island special and if we don’t “get” the campaign that is supposed to draw other people here, it’s probably not that good.

So as we close out the spring, we know two things: Panda is too big to be nimble and cooler/ warmer is too meaningless to be useful. I am glad to see both on the bench so that we won’t waste a season watching him trying to bend over or a summer debating whether cooler/ warmer is about menopause or marketing.

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