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Florida answers critics of ‘sexist’ logo: ‘It’s just a cartoon’

State of Florida

Florida won't ditch its new business recruitment logo, even though some female business executives complain that it's sexist, the state agency that commissioned the design said Tuesday.

Enterprise Florida, a public-private joint venture that promotes business development in the state, spent $380,000 to come up with its first branding logo, buying itself a major controversy.

The problem? That bright orange men's necktie in place of the letter "i" in "Florida."

Florida news sites and Facebook lit up after the logo was unveiled last week.

"I don't think a man's necktie represents all that Florida's business community has to offer," Katherine Yanes, president of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, told The Tampa Tribune.

Susan Stackhouse, chief executive of Stellar Partners of Tampa, which runs retail concessions at airports, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal: "Isn't that special? It's clearly a strong visual that business and men go together."

But "we're going to move forward with this campaign," Melissa Medley, Enterprise Florida's chief marketing officer, said Tuesday.

"The tie is iconic to mean business," Medley told NBC News. "It has nothing to do with gender roles. It's just a cartoon."

Enterprise Florida conducted extensive research — including interviews, surveys and focus groups — before approving the "Perfect Climate for Business" campaign, she said.

"All they've seen is the logo, which is just the merest sliver of what's to come," said Medley, who said the agency would never intentionally do anything to set out to offend women.

"Heck, I'm a woman," she said. "I refuse to let my professionalism and my femininity be defined by a piece of fabric."

Meanwhile, Ed Burghard, chief executive of the Burghard Group, a corporate branding firm based in Loveland, Ohio, and a former global brand designer for Procter & Gamble, had a different objection: It isn't a particularly effective logo.

Burghard agreed that the logo, while memorable, is "potentially off-putting" to women. But it's also too "generic," he wrote in an extensive analysis on the blog Strengthening Brand America.

"A generic brand statement as a tagline is a throw away, particularly when it is a blatant overstatement. In my opinion, 'The Perfect Climate For Business' provides no relevant point of difference for CEOs to associate with Florida," he wrote. "Positioning Florida as the perfect business climate is puffery."

Plus, it's just plain outdated in an age when many businesses — particularly in steamy Florida — are "rejecting ties as required dress code," he wrote.

"I don't know for a fact, but I strongly suspect most companies operating in Florida are business casual," Burghard wrote.

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