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California dreamin’ didn’t become a hit song for nothing. The state perpetuates an image of sun, movie stars, shopping, and most recently, innovation, that attracts visitors from around the country and the world.
>> See Skift’s sister post on country branding here.
The same can be said for Florida’s projection as the “sunshine state” filled with every variety of amusement park, or New York City’s moniker as ‘the greatest city in the world.’
Just like countries’ branding initiatives and tourism marketing campaigns boost their tourism revenues, individual states must lure residents of neighboring states across their borders.
Ranking and rating states’ brands
This is the first year that Bloom Consulting, a Madrid-based consulting firm specializing in destination branding, issued a report ranking the economic performance and brand effectiveness of 51 U.S. states.
The methodology factors in hard and soft data in an effort to show the correlation between tourism receipts and effective branding. The four key factors considered are as follows:
- economic performance measured in tourism receipts over the past five years,
- how unique a state’s brand strategy is and how actively it reflects what the state has to offer to tourists
- how many people visit the website of the state’s official tourism agency
- social media performance as measured by engagement and followers on Twitter and Facebook
Each state is ranked by economic performance (numerical ranking) and given a grade on its branding strategy. The State Branding Strategy (SBS) Rating is a reflection of how close the state comes to reaching its branding potential. The ratings range from AAA, representing a very strong branding strategy, to D, a weak branding strategy.
States with top tourism receipts
It’s not surprising that California, New York, and Florida receive the highest revenue from tourist receipts in the country. They’re home to some of the longest coasts, largest cities, and most well known attractions in the United States.
It might be surprising; however, to find that states like Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado also fall high on the list.
Illinois’s lucrative tourism industry is centered around Chicago. Michigan’s biggest city, Detroit, isn’t very popular with tourists, but the state has still seen great success from its diligent branding efforts. One example is Pure Michigan‘s first digital tourism campaign for hunting and fishing, which launched in late 2012. The online-only campaign targeted important consumers, hunters and fishers, in Michigan’s tourism industry.
Colorado’s branding success centers around the state’s image as an outdoors and family-friendly destination; an image that state legislators are worried could be tarnished by rumors of weed tourism.
Midwestern states appear to be some of the worst at branding themselves. Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas all fall within the bottom 12. It raises the question whether a state’s branding abilities is reliant on factors sometimes outside of its control: flat landscape, smaller cities, end less attractions.
Great branding with few results
At times a state is doing the best it can with its given culture or branding, earning itself an A or AA mark, but it’s still not making a lot of money from tourists. This describes why states like Utah and Idaho have a score of AAA or A, but still rank 34th and 35th on the list.
Bloom Consulting is working on a live branding index that adjusts the actively ranks of U.S. states as new initiatives and ad campaigns promoting a state’s tourism industry are released.