Brand USA Aims to Rehab America’s Image to Boost Tourism

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“Brand USA has arrived, and it is not just a tourism brand,” stated Stephen J. Cloobeck, chairman of Brand USA, at a public unveiling today in London. 

Formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, Brand USA is the new name for America’s tourism body encompassing all 50 states, part of a new national image campaign that has been in the works since last year, when Congress approved the public-private partnership to refresh America’s brand with a global campaign pitching the U.S. as a destination to tourists.

As America’s national brand, what is Brand USA exactly?[more]

“It is a 21st Century global brand,” said Cloobeck, one “that will help reposition our great nation in the market for travel, and drive economic activity, including billions of new spending, tens of thousands of new outsource-proof jobs and much needed-tax revenue, to spur powerful growth throughout all corners of the United States.”

The overarching mission is to eliminate “barriers keeping people from coming here,”said Chris Perkins, the organization’s CMO, to the New York Times. “It’s a competitive marketplace.” He cited research showing that the average tourist spends about $4000 per trip to the U.S., and that it takes 35 tourists to create one American job. He also pointed to Mexico and Australia as countries with “concise, clear messaging.”

With a $200 million budget, the initiative features a new website for tourists, DiscoverAmerica.com, and a new tagline, “fresh, welcoming and inclusive,” as a reminder that “the United States of awesome possibilities welcomes everyone.” (Wouldn’t the United States of Awesome scan better?) Businesses, meanwhile, are invited to visit a dedicated Brand USA website.

Brand USA is a public-private initiative, funded through private sector investment and funds collected by the Department of Homeland Security from international visitors who visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Oversight is from the Department of Commerce and U.S. Congress. 

“The United States offers a range of destinations and experiences that are unparalleled in the world market,” commented Brand USA CEO Jim Evans. “Now, through the creation of Brand USA, we are inviting the world’s travelers to come to visit us, and experience the limitless possibilities for themselves.”

As chairman of the 11-member Brand USA Inc. board of directors that sets policy and oversees marketing and advertising, Cloobeck is a prominent Las Vegas resort executive. Not coincidentally, Las Vegas is one of the most popular U.S. destinations for tourists; in 2010, 6.7 million international visitors spent an estimated $6.6 billion there which would support 58,000 jobs in the region according to the Las Vegas Sun.

“We all have a sense of urgency” about the campaign, said Beth Waxman-Arteta, CMO JWT, to the New York Times, to “empower those people who have a predisposition to tell our story for us.” The campaign was created by WPP agencies including JWT, for advertising; Mediacom, for media services; Brand Union, for brand identity; and Hill & Knowlton, for public relations.

As for the need to boost travel to America, the Brand USA website spells it out:

While the United States welcomed 60 million visitors in 2010, over the last decade, its world market share has plummeted as travel has exploded across the globe. The U.S. share of global travel spending fell from 17.2 percent in 2000 to an estimated 11.6 percent in 2010. Other countries including France, the United Kingdom and Australia, have promoted themselves successfully for years, and now the United States has chosen to get in the game, to repair and reinvigorate our nation’s image and recapture our market share.

With that in mind, the consumer-facing “Discover America” campaign offers a reskinned Facebook page, Twitter feed and continues using bloggers who create chatty videos such as the one below. But is it enough to drive more tourists to America? Weigh in below.

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