Several weeks ago I drove from Roanoke, Virginia, across the entire length of the beautiful state of Tennessee before turning south to Tunica, Mississippi. Some of the communities I passed through have powerful brands and very appealing advertising to lure visitors. I stay apprised of these things because of our agency’s specialty in tourism branding. I started wondering — as I tend to do when I have time on my hands — what it would be like if every region, county or small town had top-quality, professional branding and marketing.

There are many reasons why some destinations don't have excellent branding and advertising, including:

• lack of financial resources to hire highly qualified firms

• lack of support for tourism in general

• lack of understanding of how investing in smart branding and advertising can improve their tourism ROI

• willingness to accept mediocrity (I don't mean to sound sarcastic, sometimes a lack of resources requires accepting amateur work. On the other hand, some people think an ad with the font comic sans and a gigantic starburst is good.)

For a brief moment I wondered if this is another example of the haves vs. have-nots in our society and will it always be this way. Will the poorer rural communities ever have adequate funding to get their message out even though off-the-beaten-path destinations have many wonderful experiences to offer visitors? Mostly what I wondered about was whether it would be beneficial for the traveler if every destination — large or small — had memorable and intriguing advertising. What if the tiniest county in Tennessee had the same caliber advertising as Memphis? Would the competition be too much for tourists to take if small towns tugged at them with the same ferocity as larger destinations? Would larger destinations suffer if visitor spending is siphoned off to smaller communities? I don't think so. I'd prefer to think that travelers could be enticed to extend a trip by a day or two to visit both destinations. Maybe people who are not frequent travelers could be lured if more and more destinations made convincing pitches for their business. The more I thought about it, as the miles rolled by, the more enthralled I became with my vision for a utopian society where every community that wanted to market itself to tourists could do so aggressively and with flair and professionalism.

Well, that's the kind of stuff I think about on long drives. Why? What do you think about? 


6 Walnut Avenue • Vinton, Virginia 24179

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