This week I wanted to touch on what many feel is the most annoying brand that’s ever been slapped on the Jersey Shore’s continuing myriad of mantras: “Stronger than the Storm.” The state awareness campaign aside, New Jersey has basically thumbed its nose at working stiffs that were caught in the reality of Sandy, and took their rebuilding campaign to the limits by involving an out-of-state jingle writer to fill our airwaves with the most incomprehensible nursery rhyme on the planet.
According to news outlets, Brushfire Marketing, based out of Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, came up with the idea and the lyrics before employing New York musician Brian Jones, who wrote the music for this…song. The marketing campaign that gave birth to this project was launched by our very own New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and like all things political, it doesn’t seem make much empathetic sense.
When you mention this saccharine jingle to NJ residents, the overall feeling is definitely not the same one that’s advertised on radio and tv. People hate this song. They hate it for the transparent and corporate transaction that it is. They hate it for the way it describes a situation that isn’t even close to the real thing. The song itself came from a sliver of an advertising phrase. Ken Musto, creative director of Brushfire Marketing, thought up “Stronger than the Storm.” (We already had Jersey Strong at that point, but okay.)
So what is the problem? The problem is how Brushfire and the state have used their business perceptions to come up with a song that is immediately phony and covered in the stink of financial gain. I don’t know what it cost us to have this track recorded, but I have heard that the entire “Stronger than the Storm” campaign allegedly cost over $25 million. Now, before someone says, “Hey, jerk, this campaign has helped New Jersey” (I’m sure the tourism side has been helped to some extent), it still doesn’t speak to a public that can’t get their insurance adjusters to pay out for repairs and peace of mind.
To make matters even more quizzical, Brushfire marketing director Ken Musto is quoted as saying, “We wanted to achieve a summer anthem song. This is the ‘Hey Jude’ of New Jersey.” All I could say when I read that was, “Wow.”
There are more than a couple iconic musicians here in the Garden State, and even they wouldn’t dare utter a statement like that when describing some of the world famous songs that they have written. But that’s the outcome of letting a marketing firm write a song that was used to portray our feelings. Just like that ridiculous reality show Jersey Shore, “Stronger than the Storm” is a media tool used to sum up all that’s happened and sweep it away with a mojito-tinged, summertime fist raiser. And like Snooki and her gang, it will stay attached to New Jersey in a negative way for much too long.
I did email the STTS folks offering a chance to discuss this and other topics concerning New Jersey music and moods, but received no answer as of this writing.
Check out some Facebook comments from my recent survey about this track. While some convey their frustration through the levity of humor, when it comes to the dismissive tone of the campaign tune, this topic is no laughing matter.
CW: “The first couple of times that I saw the commercial on tv, it didn’t even register on my awareness scale. Finally, the overall bland nature of the tune got my attention—and once that happened, I paid attention to the commercial, and it honestly irked me. They make it seem as though restaurants and delis are writing this marketing slogan on their blackboard specials, surfers are decking their boards out with it and the rest of us are holding hands across the beach singing it ‘Kumbaya’ style. Sure, I’m still standing here on my property; I took water in my garage, my shed, my crawlspace and part of my first floor. FEMA cut me a check for $1,500—basically to replace the insulation under my house—but the real ‘fuck you’ is still to come, as at some point, I will be required to either raise my house or pay close to $30,000 per year in flood insurance (neither of which I can afford). ‘Stronger than the Storm?’ Sure, I cleaned up my house and my property with the help from friends and family. ‘Stronger than the Storm?’ Well, we’re not stronger than FEMA and the bureaucracy of cold-blooded bankers and insurance companies that Christie is feeding to us. So pardon me if you don’t hear me singing along with your marketing jingle.”
JT: “I agree, what a stupid, human-chauvinism thing to say. The whole point should be we’re NOT stronger than the storm.”
BJ: “The entire idea it’s based on is stupid. As if NJ residents are somehow stronger or more resilient than any other people anywhere else in the world is absurd. Would people in any other state have laid around and waited for buzzards to start feeding on them? It’s why we toss words like ‘hero’ so cavalierly now. It makes people feel better about their lives. So in the end it’s nothing more taking little Johnny out for ice cream after the trip to the dentist. It’s a money-making marketing scheme based on a little pat on the head.”
MC: “In one week, they would have gotten 100 better songs submitted by real musicians and the best ones would have come from those most affected—Jersey musicians. Let’s hope they learn from their mistake and use the ridiculous amount of local talent in the future.”
LMS: “As someone who lost almost everything in the storm and whose parents literally lost everything, I cringe when I hear that song. I was a struggling single parent before the storm and I am struggling even more to try to catch up now. Yes, my house is new and beautiful now, but most days I don’t think I will catch up financially, but I am trying. That’s all you can do. But watching my parents have to start over at a time when they should be enjoying their lives is horrible. That song makes me want to hit someone. Lol.”
At the end of the day, marketing companies don’t care what you or I have to say on the matter. They made their money. Neither does the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, as they’ve made their (your) money too. But perhaps you should let them know how you feel anyhow. Apparently the “Stronger than the Storm” campaign should have really been called “Stronger than the Shore,” because like it or not, we’re stuck with it.
Keep those stories coming our way, and let us know what else you’d like to see here in The Aquarian, New Jersey’s longest running musical publication. We care what’s going on with New Jersey. firstname.lastname@example.org