Brand USA expects to spend about $140 million marketing the U.S. abroad this fiscal year, but it's still hard to deduce the tangible impact its programs have on stimulating demand for American vacations.
As Brand USA’s budget has swelled in recent years, it has launched a variety of marketing campaigns aimed to attracting foreign visitors to the U.S.
In the group’s latest board meeting, its leaders detailed a re-positioning in international advertising with America as a land of reinvention.
They also addressed the importance of China to Brand USA’s goal of attracting 100 million annual international visitors by 2021.
Here are four takeaways from Brand USA’s quarterly board meeting:
‘America Is Artificial’
Brand USA is looking to launch new international brand campaigns that turn America’s weaknesses into positives.
They’ve developed a so-called bridge strategy to capitalize on weaknesses, dubbed “All Within Your Reach,” that turns America’s size and diversity into a selling point instead of a source of confusion.
Top criticisms about America from potential travelers according to Brand USA’s research are that America is fake, America is too familiar, there are new cooler places to visit and that America’s size is overwhelming.
A new integrated marketing campaign is also on the way billing America as “The Land of Reinvention;” Brand USA will conduct a survey of potential markets later this year to test the slogan’s viability before it is deployed this fall.
Brand USA will also relaunch its website on May 1, incorporating a more destination-based navigation style with a bigger focus on imagery.
You can check out the presentation for more details.
This is The Beginning of U.S. and China
2016 marks the first ever U.S-China Tourism Year event, which launched in February. The partnership is geared at getting more Chinese vacationers to visit the United States.
This partnership is only a prelude to further projects in the years ahead as more Chinese families spend their ample savings on international travel.
“We’re looking for opportunities to really recognize what the growth potential is,” said Kelly Craighead, executive director of the National Travel and Tourism Office. “Having a 12-month program is about getting the conditions [for future growth] right.”
Craighead also said that traditional marketing methods like familiarization trips are being invested in, in addition to more cost-effective co-op marketing campaigns.
From a broader strategic perspective, Brand USA’s leadership expect the Chinese traveler to be crucial to growing America’s tourism numbers to more than 100 million visitors.
“The biggest contributor to 100 million will be China; Canada and Mexico are already huge numbers, but [China] can definitely [increase] long-haul numbers a lot,” said Brand USA president Chris Thompson. “China’s the one that’s got the greatest potential… there’s a lot of partnerships that have to get made to deliver 100 million.”
Expect More Feature Films From Brand USA
Brand USA says its latest documentary film, National Park Adventure, has been a success; the group claims it will recoup the $13.65 million it spent on the film to the tune of an expected $37.7 million in revenue this year.
It’s planning to fund another similar film in the coming years and leverage the content produced for the film across other mediums.
“The film is so much bigger than the TV medium, but we did at the same time produce a Travel Channel [component],” said Whitaker. “We will continue to take advantage of that asset and others like that. Again what we’re also trying to do is show the film outside of the traditional formats; that will increase [our marketing reach without increasing costs]… the value of the footage we own is tremendous and we can repurpose that.”
The Visa Waiver Program May Switch Names
Brand USA board chairman and Marriott International CEO Arne Sorensen at one point mentioned the political debate over the Visa Waiver Program and how its wonky name leads people to believe it let’s travelers enter America without any security precautions.
It turns out politicians were making an effort to tweak the name of the program.
“There is a great need to have [the visa waiver program name] changed, and I believe there were efforts underway more than a year ago to address that,” said Craighead. “But with the Paris attacks, the focus on nuts and bolts [of security reform] have overtaken that [effort].”
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Photo credit: A screen shot of Brand USA's Korea website. Brand USA