Why is Big Tex an ideal icon for Texas’ State Fair? To start with, he’s big

Daniel Howard, marketing professor at SMU's Cox School of Business, talks about the continuing brand appeal of the Texas State Fair's Big Tex as a state icon.


With nary a focus group nor design team, the irreplaceable icon of the State Fair of Texas was born as a squinty-eyed, hook-nosed, barrel-chested braggart.

Not that we think of Big Tex that way now. But that’s how he started out in 1952. The newest version will be revealed Friday, risen from last October’s ashes like a phoenix from a cattle drive campfire. And Big Tex 2.0 will get the attention that other places might focus on a royal birth.

What made Big Tex the ideal Texan mascot from the very start? To start with, he’s really, really big. And lassoed to memories of the taste of corny dog and the smell of funnel cake. The din of the midway and the reassurance that he was the unmistakable meeting place if you lost your parents, kids or friends at the fair.

So when Rebuilt Tex is shown off on the first day of the 2013 fair, almost a year after he burned down to a charred metal frame, a disturbance in the Lone Star Force will be mended for his fans.

“When you are a kid, the day comes that the rug is yanked out from underneath you regarding Santa Claus,” said Raine Devries, a fifth-generation Dallasite who created the Big Tex Grief Support Group on Facebook literally while the ashes were still smoldering. “But Big Tex was real, he was tangible, and you could see him and hear him standing right there in front of you.”

Plus Big Tex speaks. From the second year he was up. Always live. And always, no matter who supplied the voice, in a deep, slow, cowpoke-on-Quaaludes drawl:

“Howwwwww-deee, folks. This … is … Biiiig Tex.”

And that all creates a personal and emotional connection, said Daniel Howard, a marketing professor at SMU’s Cox School of Business. Emphasis on emotional.

“So many people say consumer behaviors are all about thinking and cognition,” Howard said. “They’re wrong.”...