In the 1980’s Texas, like much of the nation, was facing an ever-growing issue, litter. Littering had gotten so bad that there was a national campaign attempting to fend off this domestic menace. One national series of ads was connecting. Each ad featured an elder native American Indian with a teardrop running his cheek at the sight of litter in streams, rivers, parks, along roadways. This series had a positive effect – except in Texas.

A research group returned these findings. Most of the littering in Texas was by 18-35-year-old males. They nicknamed this group “Bubba”. It seems none of the attempts from the state were affecting Bubba. Not even the ads with the elder Indian and the teardrop. Bubba wasn’t phased to stop littering.

Officials in the state of Texas realized their messages were not connecting with “Bubba”. What could be done to connect with this group? An extensive pursuit was underway to connect the needed message to this group and others throughout the state. What is it that this group respects and would react to positively?

A new ad campaign was implemented with the message that anyone littering was messing with Texas. And if you mess with Texas you are messing with anyone who cares about Texas. Texas athletes  (Dallas Cowboys,  country musicians as Willie Nelson were among those appearing in ads. The ad campaign was so successful that not only did the prideful Texans 18-35 (and all ages) stop littering, Bubba was willing to call anyone out whom they saw littering. Litter in Texas dropped by 72% over the next five years. The tag line that became a statewide slogan, “Don’t Mess With Texas!”

If you were alive and of remembering age in the eighties, you likely remember that slogan. It was broadcast all over the nation due to the success of the campaign. It was being quoted across the country. The pride of a cleaner atmosphere was spreading beyond the Lone Star state. According to Wikipedia, “While the slogan was not originally intended to become a statewide cultural phenomenon, it did.” It is still in use today.

The Don’t Mess with Texas campaign connected the message with the consumer. Every leader needs to continuously ensure his/her message is connecting for accomplishing the desired outcomes. As in the business world, in churches, the pastor’s message (not only in the pulpit) often doesn’t connect with the congregation, yet the pastor/leader often does not realize the disconnect.

To ensure your message as a leader is connecting with your congregants, volunteers, or consumers, find a connecting point. The way you deliver it is usually what connects to you. That may not be the same connecting point you need. In Texas, the connecting point was not cleanliness. The connecting point was pride in their home state, and the protection of fellow Texans. What will you do this week to find a better connecting point for those entrusted to your leadership?

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.

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