Like just about everyone else in the US inbound international tourism industry, Brand USA has been buffeted in the past several years by the winds of a perfect economic storm—weak currencies in the key source markets of Europe, the UK, Canada and Mexico; a once-in-a-lifetime economic recession in the top South American market of Brazil; and a negative attitude abroad toward the USA due to the policies and pronouncements of President Donald Trump. Also, attempts by some factions in Congress or among those critical of any federal governmental role in tourism promotion to shut down the agency has certainly done nothing to shore up the self-confidence of those for or with Brand USA.
Add to the above the wobbly foundation of the marketing organization’s own marketing department—it went through three chief market officers in less than five years—and it’s a wonder, sometimes, that the organization has a signature it can call its own.
But, as we observed the measured, one-step-at-a-time pace of last week’s Brand USA Marketing Committee meeting, we detected a sense of quiet confidence exuded at the session as senior staff put forth and explained the agency’s marketing budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins Oct. 1st.
Part of this confidence is because of Chief Marketing Officer Tom Garzilli, who took over the post last year from David Whitaker, who came from Tourism Toronto to take the job in May 2015, and held it for just a year before he left to become president and CEO of Choose Chicago. Garzilli, who joined Brand USA in March 2013—serving as senior vice president, global partner marketing—was formally appointed CMO in June 2016. Now with the organization for four-and-a-half years, Garzilli actually has what passes as a history for someone at Brand USA.
The $137 million FY ’18 marketing budget for Brand USA is the first prepared in whole under Garzilli. And it seems to have his signature—one refined after a professional lifetime in private sector marketing.
“We can describe our approach as doing more with the assets we have,” he said, “which means getting closer to the market telling more stories and creating more product.” The budget’s planned expenditures focus “less on fees and production … and more on content.”
The organization is now looking to decrease its hard spend, he added, and would be achieving savings through non-discretionary spending this comes as a result of creating better content … less fees to agencies.
At the same time, Garzilli noted, that even though Brand USA is a global organization, it has worked at getting closer to the trade and to its partners in key individual markets. Look for Brand USA’s message to become less global and more country market-focused.
Expanding on this notion, Anne Madison, Brand USA’s chief strategy and communications officer, told the marketing committee meeting that it is “getting to a point where we have identified the center of gravity from a media perspective in each market so this ‘one size fits all approach really is going to be put to rest’ … we’ll have market specific messaging … we’ll no longer be treating Canada and India the same.”
A More Focused Budget—Key Market by Key Market: Garzilli said the Brand USA’s marketing campaign will be focused on 14 markets spread across four tiers, “so we try to prioritize our spending.”
The 14 markets are: Tier One—China and India; Tier Two—South Korea, Mexico and Brazil; Tier Three—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and UK; and Tier 4—Chile, Colombia and Sweden.
Following are graphic explanations for each of the four tiers.
Tier One: China
Tier One: India
Tier Two: South Korea
Tier Two: Mexico
Tier Two: Brazil
Tier Three: Australia, Canada, France, German, Japan, UK
Tier Four: Sweden, Colombia, Chile
The final review of the Fiscal Year 2018 Brand USA marketing program, as well as the organization’s overall budget for FY ’18, was scheduled to take place at a Sept. 20 meeting of the organization’s board of directors.