I was perusing a great travel magazine over lunch
yesterday. In addition to the always outstanding editorial content, this issue
had a 36-page special advertising section on Florida. While it might dismay a
lot of readers to find so many pages in a row with advertising, it perked me
right up. I like to travel and I earn my living in tourism branding and
advertising. I dove right in — forgive the beach pun — to the Florida advertising
I am reluctant to criticize a destination's brand
strategy because I don't have access to their research. It's especially
difficult if I have never been to that community to experience its assets and
personality firsthand. So, I can't argue whether it's wise to brand Historic
Milton as the Canoe Capital of Florida. I can, however, pick out some really
lame tourism advertising and identify some destinations that I believe have no
thought-out brand strategy at all. They're shooting from the hip in their ads.
They're a ship without a rudder adrift at sea. They're deserving of several
other metaphors but I think you get the point.
Nine advertisers within this special section use the word "nature" or "natural" in some way (It's only natural or The natural place to
be, for example). That’s right, nearly a third of the destinations had
essentially the same message. Clearly they don't care about differentiation. Can we also
assume from this that there is nothing unique about the destination that actually
differentiates them from the competition? That is the clear message to the
average consumer. As a tourism advertising professional, I know that’s not
true. Every destination has a story to tell — a history, a landmark, a quirk, a
personality, something that makes it unique and wonderful. Because this is my earnest
belief, it breaks my heart to se such lame positioning and advertising.
All this brings me back to one
of my most passionate crusades. Branding and the long-lasting benefits associated
with it are not just for large destinations with big budgets. The smaller
communities need it even more. Imagine a 36-page special advertising section
where every individual destination’s ad clearly communicated the uniqueness of
the place and offered a distinct reason to visit. Not only would that be more fun to
read, it would be truly helpful to the consumer because the advertising would truthfully distinguish one place from another.