Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to some outstanding tourism professionals at the Spring Meeting of the Virginia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus. The topic was building a strong tourism brand. Before diving into the meat of the presentation – theory, definitions, practices and research – I felt compelled to share with everyone the two main reasons why I have such passion for this topic.
1. I sincerely believe that every community has something interesting and unique that should be shared with the world. It may not be obvious, especially to those who are close to it and live with it every day. It may not draw as many visitors as the Grand Canyon or Graceland, but something makes every city, town or county one-of-a-kind. That's the very definition of "authentic" and many travelers crave authenticity.
2. The term “branding” is frequently tossed around by people who have no understanding of its meaning or its value. We intend to fix that – at least in every community in which we work and before every gathering that will have me as a speaker. For many people, their understanding of the concept comes from watching old westerns on television where cattle was branded with a mark. So it must follow that if you slap a logo on something it’s branded. If a destination produces a rack card containing utterly bland information that could describe every community in the state but they slap a logo on it suddenly it’s branded content. That is an inaccurate view of the purpose of working hard to build a brand. It may work for selling gym socks but it is not going to sell a destination to potential visitors.