So, I walk the halls of Congress wearing a red buffalo plaid vest, and carrying a red plaid scarf. Why? Glad you asked!
You may be aware we’re branding our North Country National Scenic Trail community as the “Red Plaid Nation.” My blog of December 4, 2013 details the rationale for why we believe the “Red Plaid Nation” resonates among our community and enables us to be identified and connected with our brand promise—that we’re a durable and effective group of folks who know how to have fun while we’re playing and working in the Great North Woods. The Red Plaid Nation makes a strong statement as well as creates an invitation for folks to self-identify with and belong to it. As with any iconic brand, the wearing of red plaid creates recognition; and, the more you wear and reinforce it the more effective it becomes. Think Nike “swoosh” (was that even a word before Nike?). You see the Nike swoosh and you think “just do it.” We’re hoping to create enough brand recognition that when folks see red buffalo plaid they’ll not only associate it with the North Country Trail, they’ll want to adopt it as part of their own identity.
Is it working? Well in the Halls of Congress it seems to be. People don’t always remember my name, but they darn sure remember the red plaid, and they make the association with the North Country Trail.
One example occurred last Monday as I waited in the reception area to meet with Senator Klobuchar’s staff. The Senator was walking past in the hallway, heading for her office when she stopped, turned around and came back into her reception area to say hello to me. It wasn’t that she recalled me or my name—it was the red plaid vest. She made the association and knew I was there to talk about her bill, S. 403, the NCNST Route Adjustment Act.
Folks in D.C. remark about the vest, and each year a number ask where to get one. It gives me an opening to talk about our Red Plaid Nation volunteers, and about how our North Country Trail is unique from every other NST in the system—because of our people and the places that define their work and play, that are linked by the collective story told by the NCT.
We’re a long way from “just do it,” but, in the Halls of Congress at least, there are a whole lot of folks who know what it means when they see a red plaid vest or scarf. We’re the “Red Plaid Nation.” We build and maintain America’s longest national scenic trail through her northern heartlands. We’re tough and enduring and pretty darn comfortable with who we are. We know how to play in the North Woods and we’ve got what it takes to survive adversity. Who wouldn’t want to stand alongside us?