Do you remember the “Little Orphan Annie” radio show scene from “A Christmas Story”? Ralphie discovers the secret decoder ring to be just a “crummy commercial” for Ovaltine. After months of faithfully sitting by the radio listening to the “Little Orphan Annie” show, Ralphie realized he was not part of some exclusive club; he was being tricked.
The marketing lesson here is don’t trick your customer or those you are trying to win influence over. To communicate effectively with someone and earn their attention and respect, I’ve learned you must connect with them first. A tricky or gimmicky message that has no foundation or proof will most assuredly turn someone away, like Ralphie and Ovaltine. My children and I like Ovaltine by the way, so no disrespect meant!
Let’s briefly examine Lake County’s efforts to brand itself as “Real Florida. Real Close.” and two specific efforts to attract and grow high-wage jobs: Wellness Way and the Wolf Branch Innovation District.
“Real Florida. Real Close.” connects with most residents because it touches on their personal decision to move to Lake County or to stay in Lake County. The message connects with the highly skilled workers at Electron Machine Corporation in North Lake who love to hunt the woods and fish the lakes of the Ocala National Forest. And it connects with the health and wellness doctors and medical professionals who cycle the “Florida mountains” and swim the pristine lakes in South Lake. Most residents desire a unique Florida community— something that’s not typical suburbia with elements of plastic, manmade tourism.
Plans for Wellness Way in South Lake and the Wolf Branch Innovation District near Mount Dora emblematize efforts led by the county, cities, and business leaders to land high wage jobs. These projects offer the opportunity to transition away from a housing-dependent economy to one diversified in clean manufacturing, technology, health and wellness, agriculture, and professional services. We’ve learned big ideas and dreams, such as creating these job centers of tomorrow and protecting quality of life, don’t just happen; it takes planning, wisdom, persistence, and an engaged community.
The proof or foundation of “Real Florida. Real Close.” and the planning efforts of Wellness Way and the Wolf Branch District rest with both the future policy actions taken by leaders and our marketing efforts. “Real Florida. Real Close.” means a lot of things to a lot of people. There will always be some divergence of opinion on this message. And skeptics will say Wellness Way and the Wolf Branch Innovation District are simply attempts to build more homes.
Without a champion to market these plans and our message, it is quite possible Lake County could never really make the full transition from economic sameness and dependency to uniqueness and exclusiveness, meaning the quality of life we love today will fade like a sunset over Lake Minnehaha.
Leadership and wisdom will make the difference in knowing what belongs in Wellness Way and the Wolf Branch Innovation District, and what doesn’t. The plans and our slogan “Real Florida. Real Close.” are without merit if there is no follow-through or commitment to be what we are saying we are going to be. Basically, we risk becoming another “crummy commercial.”