The Wander Indiana tourism campaign debuted in January of 1982 with a shoestring budget of $384,000. That year, Lt. Gov. John Mutz and the Tourism Development Division of the Indiana Department of Commerce unveiled the stylized “Wander Indiana” logo. Also released was The Wander Book, an informational guide for travelers looking for mini-vacation ideas around the Hoosier State. The guide included a form to order Wander Ware branded merchandise and souvenirs such as caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs, glasses, Fun Flyer discs and luggage.
In search of a theme song, the Tourism Development Division turned to the Ernie Maresca song “The Wanderer.” However, they were unable to acquire the licensing rights. Subsequently, the need for a theme led to a July 1982 call-out to songwriters for an original song. With no prize money at stake, the winner – out of 81 entries – was announced in September. Earmark, a musical production company in Indianapolis, won the contest and the bragging rights with their song based on the “Wander Indiana” campaign. With a brand new jingle, radio promotions became possible.
As the campaign rolled on, merchandise continued to be a popular means of promotion. In March of 1983, state Sen. William Dunbar introduced House Bill 1751 (P.L. 22-1983), which created a Tourism Marketing Fund. There was a desire for the Tourism Development Division to “buy Indiana” produced items, citing as an example, that the souvenir mugs were made in England. Additional items were available for purchase according to the 1986 Wander Book.
While the “Wander Indiana” campaign initially aimed to promote in-state tourism with its billboards, brochures, merchandise and a tourism hotline, the 1984 marketing phase featured television ads broadcast in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. A driverless classic car mysteriously rolls along Indiana’s backroads and highways. The 1950 Studebaker Champion, dubbed “Wanderer,” was the star in the television ads. There were 30 and 60 second versions of the commercial. The 1982 theme song had been modified, but similarities remained. The below video clip was transferred from VHS to DVD and posted on Indiana State Library’s YouTube channel. It shows a snippet of the television ad campaign.
The 1984, the “Wander Indiana” campaign also reached motorists by way of new license plates. In a pre-specialty plate era, with few license plate choices, the slogan “Wander Indiana” on everyone’s bumpers evoked many opinions. Critics did not like the red, yellow, green and white colors. The word Wander at the top was prominent while Indiana was less noticeable at the bottom. Detractors wondered if there was a state called “Wander.” After its three-year run was concluded, the “Wander Indiana” license plate was retired and replaced in January of 1987 with “Back Home Again.”
While the Bureau of Motor Vehicles was done with “Wander Indiana,” the Tourism Development Division continued the marketing campaign for two more years. Incrementally, Indiana raised its national and world reputation by hosting the 1987 Pan American Games and 1988 U.S. Olympic trials. The red Studebaker Champ made its rounds to special events such as Hoosier Celebration ’88. With the change of administrations in 1989, “Come on IN” replaced the “Wander Indiana” campaign. Overall the seven-year run of “Wander Indiana” was deemed a successful marketing campaign, and it laid the groundwork for subsequent tourism promotion efforts with even more funding. Quirky or nostalgic, “Wander Indiana” has its place in Hoosier history.
This blog post was written by Indiana Division Librarian Andrea Glenn. For more information, contact the Indiana Division at 317-232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”