By Shanleigh Roberts
When people hear of Mississippi, their minds are often drawn to a state with many negative stereotypes. In class, we discussed what comes to mind when we hear the word “Mississippi.”
Ole Miss is comprised of students from many backgrounds, ethnicity and states, so it was interesting to see that the words used to describe Mississippi all seemed to fall within the same category. Overall, Mississippi was most often described as being “Southern, conservative, redneck and traditional,” and these adjectives, unfortunately, also carry the connotative meaning of being uneducated.
I enjoy being from Mississippi because of its sweet Southern hospitality and nature. However, I often feel embarrassed telling natives of other places where I am from when I travel.
Even coming to college, I was embarrassed to say that I lived in Olive Branch, Mississippi, which is only five minutes from the Tennessee line. Whenever I think of Mississippi, I think of a poor and uneducated state.
Slavery, the unwillingness to question tradition, and the rejection of equal rights within the state still affects us today. Because of its past, I feel like Mississippi is regarded as one of the most racist and segregated states, which may also contribute to the idea that its people are uneducated.
I have experienced the direct effects of Mississippi’s stereotypes through my mother, a kindergarten teacher at Olive Branch Elementary School, who has been trying to secure a teaching job in Tampa, Florida. Although she is overqualified, has high test scores, has worked in special education, and has earned a master’s degree, she has had difficulties getting a teaching job. Florida schools boast higher educational standards than those in Mississippi, and school officials are hesitant to take a Mississippi teacher, due to stereotypes.
In recent years, in the wake of the lowering of the state flag, Mississippi has been portrayed more progressively in the media. Although Mississippi is making positive changes, the media is responsible for bringing it to the public’ attention, which in turn, may lead to a more educated view of Mississippi.
My Mississippi marketing campaign would utilize other successful companies within the marketing industry, such as Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola launched the “Share a Coke” campaign, which was widely popular as people tried to find bottles with certain names on them.
Although they made a simple change to bottle labels, Coke profited largely, because people weren’t only buying a bottle of Coke to drink; they bought the personalized container.
Mississippi could collaborate with Coke by paying Coke to create a temporary new label that would represent Mississippi, and on each bottle where “Share a Coke” would normally be printed, an accomplishment or positive fact about Mississippi could be written.
Even the inclusion of every state on bottles would have a positive influence, and Coke would probably be more likely to engage in the campaign if it were applicable to the entire country.
Coca-Cola is an influential company in today’s society due to the popularity of their products. With only a small change to their bottle’s design, Mississippi would be positively impacted by collaborating with a brand accessible and popular to every person in American society.
It could be called the “Coca-Cola American Dream” campaign, and the bottle wrapper can be an American flag design. This way, the campaign involves all American citizens and highlights the positive qualities of every state. Therefore, more people will learn of the great aspects of Mississippi.
I cannot actually conduct this campaign. However, I feel the results would be widely positive. People around the country tend to reduce Mississippi to a state of racist, redneck, and uneducated people.
My friend Olivia from Kansas said that, before she came here for school, she considered Mississippi a place of “swamps and hillbillies.” Now that she has actually lived here, she realizes that although the towns are as small as she expected, Mississippi stereotypes are not completely accurate, stating “All of the people aren’t redneck, and they aren’t stupid like out-of-state people think.”
I believe using Coke would be one of the most effective and successful ways to invalidate many negative stereotypes, because it is a campaign that would involve the entire nation, not just one city or state.
It is difficult to completely rid a state of its stereotypes, but I believe this campaign would teach consumers every time they drink a Coke. People will slowly begin to re-imagine Mississippi.
During this project, I learned that most out-of-state people’s perceptions of Mississippi are skewed. After talking to my own friends and having a class discussion, it is obvious out-of-state people regard our state as nothing but redneck, uneducated, and racist.
However, once these same people have lived in Mississippi for a while, they realize many of these stereotypes are flawed, thus emphasizing the importance of a marketing campaign that will impact and be accessible to the entire country.