How crucial is a brand awareness phase to the success of a destination brand? It's the ultimate objective. It's the end game. The key to securing conversions. The whole ball of wax. You get the point. It's pretty darn important. Yet too many destinations ignore it. That's probably because they don't fully understand it.
The goal of brand awareness is not simply name recognition. Limiting brand awareness to recognition demonstrates an incomplete understanding of the concept much like the popular (and incredibly frustrating) notion that a logo is a brand. There are plenty of destinations that enjoy excellent name recognition and yet the public has inaccurate perceptions about the destination. Perhaps that's because the public's familiarity with the brand begins and ends with its name. Shame they didn't take seriously the need to make prospective visitors fully aware of the rest of the brand story — the most important stuff, the reason the brand is what it is.
If a marketing director – or in a scenario I prefer, a creative agency – is tasked with developing a campaign and strategy for a tourism destination the first question to be answered is “what is the objective?” The tactics, messaging and creative work would be very different for answers like: generate web traffic; build the opt-in database; promote attendance at a festival; or increase public awareness of our newly developed branding.
In the long term, investing in thorough brand awareness will make a destination brand stronger. Help the public understand the meaning of a tagline. Introduce them to the key differentiators in your community. Make them feel an attachment to the brand that is much more likely to come with familiarity. That kind of effort makes all the other objectives more realistic down the road.