Why The ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ Campaign Has Been Revived

It's been more than 27 years that the phrase “Don’t Mess With Texas” was coined for a statewide anti-littering campaign. To reach young adults and new Texans, TxDOT is now reviving the campaign.


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(Stevie Ray Vaughan: “Don’t mess with Texas.”)

Most Texans are familiar with the phrase. The Texas Department of Transportation says 95 percent of Texans recognize the slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas,” but not nearly that many know its intended meaning. An advertising agency created it for TxDOT in 1985, but the catch phrase has since developed a life of its own.

This is TxDOT’s Bob Kaufman.

“There’s a little bit of bravado associated with the brand that came about over time. The fact of the matter is it’s really about keeping Texas clean.”

TxDOT trademarked the phrase in 2000 and has since sent out numerous cease-and-desist letters asking groups and companies to stop using the phrase. It has also filed lawsuits in some cases.

To make sure people don’t forget what the slogan is really all about, the agency is reviving its campaign with a new song and more than 300 red, white and blue trash barrels across the state.

TxDOT’s Brenda Flores-Dollar says since its initiation in the 1980s, the campaign has been very successful.

“However, among a large number of younger or newer Texans, the connection to the specific call to action has been lost. Many simply don’t know ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ means, ‘Throw your trash in a trashcan.’”

If you’re caught littering, expect to be fined between $500 and $2000.

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