U.S. Tourism Promoters Miss the Mark on Branding

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The Corporation for Travel Promotion made a big mistake in tagging its travel marketing strategy as Brand USA. To make matters worse, the CTP will now morph into Brand USA, Inc. as the new name for the public/private partnership created to restore America as the worldwide destination of choice.

To me, Brand USA gives no reason for people in China, Chile or Cameroon to visit the U.S. It doesn't speak to our natural beauty, our unmatched attractions, our great hotels, restaurants and shopping or, most importantly, our boundless hospitality. This kind of tagline could just as well be promoting America's auto industry, or farm production or technology offerings. I'm not even sure the concept of branding as business jargon is as common in many countries, particularly those in the second and third worlds, as it is here in the U.S.

In making the announcement, the Brand USA team even admitted to its cop-out. They couldn't devise a slogan, tagline or hook that explains the wonder of travel to the U.S., so instead they fell back on America's diversity as the reason to come here for a visit. As the press release said, “How could we begin to define everything this country represents to people around the world?” Since they couldn't come up with a definition, they instead developed this, also-vague brand positioning: “The United States of Awesome Possibilities Welcomes Everyone.”

Don't think I'm sour on the idea of the CTP (sorry, I should say Brand USA, Inc.). I believe the formation of this group after decades of work by the tourism sector was a major step forward for the hospitality industry and, more significantly, for the U.S. economy. And, since this branding is the group's first major announcement, it could be backed with subsequent initiatives that enable the team to quickly reach its goal of increasing in-bound tourism to the U.S.

I certainly hope so, but this isn't a good start.

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