By Michael Stodola Special to Published Jul 30, 2007 at 9:09 AM

Just got back from a trip to Vegas with Janet. We get married (well, renew our vows) in a different state each year -- and it was Nevada's turn. It was jungle-hot, weird and a whole lot of fun. The most fun part is that once you walk out of McCarran Airport, you feel naughty. You feel like, "I'm in Vegas, time to get wild."

And we're all quite familiar with the campaign promoting a randy time in Las Vegas. An ill-advised marriage, blackmail and wig-swapping have been the fodder to lure more "action" by more hopefuls. After a pathetic attempt to market Sin City as a family destination, the Powers That Be decided to embrace their core. And that move deserves a hardy Guinness "BRILLIANT!"

What Vegas came to understand is that no matter what their audience does on a day-to-day basis, when they come out west, they become tramps. Okay, okay, maybe not tramps... let's just say they're willing. Vegas has simplified its efforts and gone after one market. By selling fantasy, it's embracing the core user -- a core-user market of big-time gamblers, sexual thrill-seekers and 72-year-old buffet eaters. Sure, it's a seemingly small set, but it expands with each "normal" person's escapist vacation.

We see this all the time with Harley-Davidson. (Yes, my favorite example of branding done right.) How many bar-fighting, tattooed, bad-ass Hog owners do know? Ummmmmmm ... zero? But when they ride, they suddenly transform from Account Exec Craig or Loan Officer Matthew to Randall 'Tex' Cobb in "Raising Arizona." This is because deep-down inside we all love "make-believe."

It's what I like to call the "Tom Sawyer Effect." Living out fantasies in your bed, on the street or in the desert lets us be someone else for a short period of time. For a brief moment, we actually feel blood rushing through our body. Food tastes better, the air smells sweeter, and I'm no longer Janet's husband of eight years, but Raul, the smooth-chested pool boy from next door.

When a company has the insight and courage to embrace the values of its core, even if they're seedy and rough, it's being true to itself. It's also giving permission for others to come along for the ride.



Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.