By Jennifer D.
It’s officially fall in New York City, which makes me wish for summertime. No, not for the NYC of hot—sticky subway stations and all—but for those days when states’ travel & tourism marketing groups air their commercials on television! Their chance to say “Come one, come all to _______(fill in one of the 50 states here)!” What, you love seeing those too?
There is something interesting in the way that a state’s travel & tourism board brands itself because the same principles apply to “branding” a state as they do to branding a product or company. There are colors to think about, imagery, tone of voice (literally [and figuratively], who is doing the voice-over?), logotype, audience, and personality. Some states or districts have this down to a science—Washington, D.C. did a great job of a rebrand with its clean new logo and the motto “Create your own Power Trip.” And others should take notice. Colorado’s TV spot looks like it was produced in the late-90s and made me cringe during its entire 30 seconds.
Mottos are another element to consider. Each state has given themselves one, whether for advertising purposes (“Virginia is for Lovers”) or general use on its license plates (New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die”), and this says a lot about how the state would like to be perceived. If states don’t have a motto to do their heavy (brand) lifting, they use celebrities (California relies heavily on their A-list superstars in their current ad: David Beckham and Vanessa Williams to name two), the natural landscape (Utah wants to bring out the “outdoorsman” in everyone), or in the case of New York, humor (it doesn’t hurt that Alec Baldwin lives here).
Finally, there are some states (like some consumer brands, a la Apple) that need nothing more than a clean and easy-to-use website for their state to help would-be travelers find things to do and see or places to stay. Sure, no amount of TV commercial spending is needed to get someone to plan a trip to Hawaii! But smaller and less-traveled-to states like Minnesota need the extra marketing spend. For example, 2009 gave the “Twin Cities” state the new tagline (though I don’t think this is the best way they could have written it), “There’s no substitute for a great Minnesota vacation.” In addition, Minnesota tourism promoted ads on television, in popular magazines, and in local newspapers.
If you have visited the following states, or call any your home—do you agree with the way they are advertised? Or do you, like me, just enjoy a good state branding?