The United States of Awesome Possibilities

What would you do if you were given the job of re-branding the US to the world as a tourism destination? You’ve just been given one of the biggest, most powerful brands in the world and told to re-tell it’s story in a completely new context. Where do you start?

Honestly, I have no idea. After driving cross country, across only a handful of the states, it’s more apparent to me than ever that the US is much too diverse boil down to one creative positioning statement. How do you develop a campaign that has to hold New York City, the Grand Canyon, Alaska and Hawaii all in it’s scope?

Though the idea of “The United States of Awesome Possibilities” kind of cracks me up (it makes me think of a 90’s style imagery like “Bill and Ted’s Awesome Adventure”), I can also understand why Brand USA chose it as their new marketing campaign.

For some background (since I know not everyone follows the communications industry as obsessively as I do), Brand USA, “was established by the Travel Promotion Act in 2010 to spearhead the nation’s first global marketing effort to promote the United States as a premier travel destination and communicate U.S. entry/exit policies and procedures.” –from the horse’s mouth

What a job. The US has such a powerful and prevalent image, that it seems crazy to me that we are just establishing an global tourism board now. Sure, we have state tourism campaigns from places like Florida and Hawaii, but they’re targeted at other US citizens. There’s never been an overarching international effort to bring tourists in, until now.

The spot, created by JWT is a view of all the US has to offer set to “Land of Dreams,” by Rosanne Cash. For an slightly more in-depth information and a small bit of analysis you can check out AdAge’s summary of the spot.

Although most of the comments on AdAge are negative, I’m withholding judgement on the campaign until I see Brand USA’s follow up. As a standalone commercial I think this will probably be mostly ineffective. To the point of the reader commentary on AdAge, there is no way to sum up all that the US has to offer in just one commercial. However if this is the first shot of a larger campaign, with subsequent commercials that focus on specific areas, then Brand USA may have a decent campaign in the works.

The one big concern I do have is that from a creative standpoint the spot may not standout from other tourism efforts. Although the imagery is beautiful, and the musical selection perfect for the tone of the commercial, this is not a groundbreaking campaign by any means. See for yourself:







 Before I get into what I think about these commercials and Brand USA I’m going to take my first shot at a poll. Not just because I wanted to see what one looked like embedded into the post, but I really am curious:

Ok, so now for my thoughts:

Brand USA’s commercial is just a little generic. Although the icons and places stick out to us, they may not stick out to someone on the other side of the world. Is that red brownish arch a landmark in the US or somewhere in the Egyptian desert? The next shot is a misty woodland ridge. It’s beautiful, but I have no idea where in the US it was taken and if I saw it stuck in the middle of Ireland’s commercial I don’t think it would be out of place. Brand USA seems to be assuming that because a US citizen would recognize certain places that a European or Korean citizen would also recognize them, which is a mistake. The whole point here is that international visitors don’t know everything the US has to offer.

To compound the problem, the logo isn’t shown until the very end of the commercial. The first truly distinctive shot of the US isn’t until :16s in, and it’s Times Square shown as a reflection in someone’s sunglasses. If I had never been to NYC, I probably wouldn’t know what the image was.

I’m not trying to be harsh, as creative piece I think the commercial is beautiful. It’s feel good, I love the song and the images make me want to drive cross country all over again.  It feels like a piece of a campaign aimed at American citizens, not aimed at foreigners and therein lies the problem.

Instead of creating just another pretty piece of cinematography, like every other country has done, Brand USA and JWT should be taking a page out of Australia’s book and coming up with more out of the box solutions for building tourism. In case you don’t remember the Best Job in the World commercials and the best tourism campaign in recent history, here’s a reminder!




What do you think of Brand USA’s mission and how they’re executing it?

-Bridget

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