Forgive the baseball-themed headline. I’m caught up in Spring fever. From my home I can see the lights of the stadium where the minor league Salem (Virginia) Red Sox play their home games. I’m psyched for warm summer nights at the ballpark. But it’s not the subject of this blog entry. It’s merely a metaphor.

I recently read about two (so far) tourism initiatives that were major league blunders. There are lessons in both stories that I’d like to share and I’d like to hear your thoughts on these and possibly others.

1.  In Colorado Springs, the local Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) led an effort to rebrand the community. They chose a respected branding firm and paid them $110,000 for extensive research, strategic guidance and creative work upon which to build the future brand platform. Research and strategy – no problem. But the creative, on the other hand, not only didn’t hit it out of the park, it was a colossal whiff. The lame tagline, “Live it up” is being used in at least six other communities some of whom are direct competitors to Colorado Springs and the logo looked amateur. Both were overwhelmingly hated by the public. There was such a backlash that a Facebook page called “rebrand the Springs: drew 600+ “likes” within a couple of days. The local creative community said, “We can do better.” Eventually, the CVB had no choice but to relent and drop the terrible logo in favor of a more professional image. As I write this, they are still clinging to the weak tagline, which in my opinion was a bigger problem.

The first lesson in the Colorado Springs case has to do with making a big public announcement. That's an open invitation to everyone to engage in Monday morning quarterbacking. The second lesson is that the creative is equally as important as the other components in a branding initiative. The three elements are: research, analysis (also known as the formulation of strategy) and creative. Sadly, some places put greater value on the first two. I believe they are all equally important.

2.  North Dakota not only missed with a recent print ad, it managed to offend some people in the process. Part of their mistake was not anticipating that a lot of people don’t like to see women portrayed as cheap objects whose chance to become “legendary” is by hooking up after a few drinks. The headline “Drinks, dinner, decisions” acknowledges that a bad decision is about to be made. It’s just a terrible ad all around. From my perspective as a brand strategist, the problem results from North Dakota trying to be something it isn’t. With the rugged beauty, wide open spaces, Native American Heritage and outdoor recreation in ND, the nightlife seems so far down on the list of attributes that I can’t see how it deserves to be featured on a full-page ad.

Now, I ask all of you, the most insightful and intelligent blog readers on the planet, what are your thoughts on these two examples? Also, can you think of any other examples of tourism branding or advertising blunders? It’s not my intention to be mean or embarrass anyone, I simply want this blog to be a forum for discussion and learning. Don’t be shy. You can leave your comment here on TypePad or on our Facebook page.


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