How do you coalesce, integrate and present the essence of your tourism destination? Well, we typically brainstorm and throw ideas up on the wall and maybe select the one which oozes down that wall the least or maybe even the most. Or, we have panels and focus groups, maybe use surveys. And, if the organization’s coffers can support the expenditure, we bring in those high priced branding and marketing folks to turn a phrase for us. This effort is an inexact science, no matter the source. Memorable slogans are few, but they stick with us forever, as we try to replicate that success to showcase our destination’s memorable experiences.
Right away, we can remember those coined phrases over the years which still have play. “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” is naughty and titillating, just what the city intended. “Virginia is for Lovers” still headlines the official website for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Nothing wrong with a little romance in our lives. And, of course that often copied “I (heart) NY”. There are two others which I have always enjoyed. “Ski Kansas” got my attention as it was silly and unfathomable. “Maine – a State of Mind” greets visitors on a water tower at the southern-most border into Maine. For those of us who visit and even those who have lived there, the message rings true.
Bloomberg News recently took a look at the effort of state tourism groups with an article called, “States often take wrong turn in seeking winning tourism slogans”. Several examples were given, starting with Nebraska. “More than 3,500 corporate leaders, potential visitors, and residents were interviewed. Thursday, the marketing campaign debuts: ‘Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice’”. Whoa, Honey, grab the kids and load the car – we are off to Omaha! Not a particularly compelling message here. The state of Washington had “SayWA”, which was pulled after six months. Alaska’s entry in 2005 was “B4UDIE”. Personally, if I planned to expire, I would seek a more temperate environment.
There is no magic bullet here to create a worthy destination message. You want to be clever and thoughtful, honest and authentic. Participants in your planning sessions should include Destination marketing folks, partners in the community and existing visitors. You want to sell a feeling, a sense of that community, to conjure up the promise of the possible. Plus, you need to think outside that box.
Every destination has something to display and share with potential visitors. Throwing expensive resources at this exercise does not always bring the results you seek. As the Bloomberg article suggests, “…the money can go for naught, creating ads that fall flat or, worse, provide an occasion for mockery”.
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
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