For the first time ever, the United States of America is going whole hog on its international branding strategy, releasing a series of ad campaigns in Canada, Japan and the U.K. to promote tourism. The campaign, launched May 1, will soon be extending to Brazil and South Korea.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the tourism industry has been in decline, with some calling it a “lost decade.” Roger J. Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, wrote in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that market share for long-haul travel has fallen from 17 percent to 12 percent.
One of the central causes of that drop, he argued, was that “the supply of visas for travel to the U.S. has not kept pace with skyrocketing demand in key emerging markets.” International tourists are flooding the gates, but the gates remain closed.
Somebody must have been listening because the U.S. government has since created a non-profit tourism promotion corporation called Brand USA. The “public-private entity” is a product of the 2010 Travel Promotion Act, designed to stimulate growth in the tourism industry.
As a concept, country branding is fairly new: The Country Brand Index, for example, has only been around for 7 years. But the tangible benefits of promoting a country’s image extend well beyond travel and tourism – how a nation is perceived affects business, immigration and even politics.
And how a country is perceived isn’t as straightforward as one might think. Large population and economic clout does not necessarily translate to a better reputation (China ranks 65th on the CBI).
From cheeky catchphrases to quintessential imagery, country branding, like any branding, has a lot to do with communicating a particular message clearly and effectively.
In the case of the U.S., Brand USA chose the tagline “Discover A Whole New America” to go along with its TV commercials. Spearheaded by JWT, it’s a whole lotta Americana squeezed into a 1 min. spot.
As far as the U.S.’s CBI ranking – while it perched on the number one spot back in 2009 (thanks in large part to the “Obama effect”) the country has since slipped back to sixth place.
We’ll see whether the tagline and country music resonates with the masses.