The story behind Minnesota's new 'Bold North' motto
MINNEAPOLIS — "Bold North."
If you haven't heard it yet, you will. A lot this week.
From billboards to merchandise to the utterances of the international media that has descended on the Twin Cities, "Bold North," the tagline of Super Bowl LII, will be everywhere.
The Bold North slogan has made its way onto coffee bags. (Courtesy of Caribou Coffee)
And, yeah, that's us: Minnesota. We're the Bold North.
Not the Midwest, or the Upper Midwest. Or the "Nation's Ice Box." Certainly not the place where cute-but-simple folks say "Oh Geez." Or the place where everyone is humbly above average.
Bold North is the place where you don't merely hope to survive a subzero north wind, you stick your chin into the teeth of it with pride. Take that, Lake Wobegon.
And to hear it from those who came up with Bold North three years ago — no one around here grew up saying that — it should be our new state motto.
'It's a promise'
"It's authentic and honest," said Marilyn Carlson Nelson, one of the chairs of the Super Bowl Host Committee, which came up with the phrase. "We used to talk about cute things like 'a hot time in Minnesota' and tell people that we're more than just a cold place. But Bold North is different because it recognizes we are a cold place and it gives us pride in that."
The Sunday, Feb. 4, weather forecast for the big game envisions the real deal: lows around zero and highs in the single digits with a noticeable breeze.
Perfect, say Bold North boosters.
"A brand works when it's a promise you can keep," said Maureen Bausch, a longtime marketing executive and CEO of the Host Committee, a group of civic leaders that has helped coordinate Super Bowl events, from the original bid to host the big game to this week's activities. "This is an honest definition of who we are: leaders and innovative risk takers. And yes, it's cold here. It's a promise you can keep."
Inspired by Eric Dayton's 'North'
According to interviews with several people who were part of Bold North's inception, Eric Dayton deserves credit for the "North" part.
Dayton and his brother Andrew are the owners of Bachelor Farmer restaurant, Askov Finlayson clothing store and Marvel Bar, three successful businesses in the North Loop of Minneapolis. They're also the sons of Gov. Mark Dayton, whose great-grandfather founded Dayton's department store, a venture that later became Target Corp. (Gov. Mark Dayton Monday, Jan. 29, uttered "Bold North" a few times during Monday's official first news conference — the first time he said he's spoken the term.)
It was with those Minnesota bona fides that Eric Dayton several years ago began pushing "North," an absurdly simple but effective slogan for a campaign he's waged pushing back against cold-weather whiners and others trying to make Minnesota into something it's not. (Eric Dayton has advocated taking down the skyways in Minneapolis.)
"We definitely built this on what Eric Dayton was doing with 'North,'" said Carlson Nelson, former CEO an chairwoman of hospitality and business services giant Carlson Cos. in Minnetonka. "We all heard a TED talk he gave (in October 2015) where he talked about 'stepping into the punch' and reclaiming our culture. And then some of us were talking about 'cold' and playing around with the word."
'Rhymes with cold'
By several accounts, here's how Bold North was born.
It was February 2015, and a small group from the Host Committee — including Senior Vice President of Marketing Wendy Blackshaw, Chief Operating Officer Dave Haselman and CEO Bausch, all marketing veterans, were huddled in the small office of the nascent Host Committee above the Park Hyatt Hotel in Minneapolis.
They were doing what marketers do: shooting ideas around a table, riffing on themes and potentially catchy phrases, when someone uttered "bold."
"Rhymes with cold," someone observed. "North," meet "Bold."
"It was brilliant. We liked it right away," Bausch recalled Monday. "Everyone we bounced it off liked it too." Bausch and several others involved emphasized that no one person ever deserves credit for what emerges from such a brainstorming. "In true Minnesota style, it was a team effort."
But when the teams and the tourists and the Lombardi Trophy are gone, will we revert to "Youbetchaville," or "Fly Over Country"?
Or will Bold North stick?
"Gosh, I sure hope it does stick," Bausch said.