There was no one action or direction that Brand USA has taken in the past two or three years that signaled change and improvement, but the organization certainly seems better positioned than it had been to meet the challenge of its mission of marketing the U.S. as an international destination just as the major event for it and for the whole of the U.S. inbound tourism industry—IPW—is scheduled to get underway this Saturday, June 1st, in Anaheim, California.
This is the feeling one got in covering the meeting last week of Brand USA’s Marketing Committee followed by, the next day, a session of its board of directors. As the organization passes through the first half of its fiscal year (the new one begins Oct. 1, 2019), one sensed a new-ness to some of its programs, a greater amount of engagement with its private sector and public sector programs, and a larger sense, or desire, that the organization wants to do a better job of connecting with those who need to know what it does.
While the agency is still culpable of throwing a wall of information and data that sometimes seem designed to deaden the senses of those who listen in to its board or marketing committee meetings, there are highlights that clearly underscore the “new-ness” spoken of above. Here are some INBOUND observations on last week’s two meetings:
—At IPW (“Our Biggest Stage, Brightest Lights”), visitors to Brand USA’s booth (#2442) will be asked to help name Brand USA’s upcoming third big screen movie due to premier in February 2020. Still a work in progress, the film is the third produced by MacGillivray Freeman, which did the same for the past two works—“National Parks Adventure” and “America’s Musical Journey”—which are still being viewed and still generating impressions and revenue for Brand USA. This will be the first time that input in such a project will be industry-wide, at the largest inbound tourism industry event of the year.
—For the very first time (unless one considers what was a more or less ceremonial event at an earlier IPW) Brand USA will be taking its board of directors meeting on the road. Its summer meeting will take place Aug. 6-7 in Minneapolis. Since it is new, something that has not yet been tried, board members are anticipating a healthy turnout of curious and/or interested tour and travel professionals to be on hand.
—In its communication program, Brand USA recently began emphasizing a greater use of video content. Here’s one take on the result of its new emphasis via several distribution channels.
ROI Really Means Something: Last month, some time before last week’s meeting of the Brand USA board and its Marketing Committee, the agency issued a news release pegging the return on the dollar investment in Brand USA for Fiscal Year 2018 at 25:1. And the incremental number of visitors it was said to account for was 1.1 million. Most of us accept these figures. Perhaps six years ago, when the first ROI study done for Brand USA by Oxford Economics showed an overall ROI of 34:1 and a marketing ROI of 47:1, there were more than a few non-believers.
Since then, Oxford Economics has refined its model, and its assessments seem to be credible according to most industry professionals. But what about the 1.1 million incremental visitors? While remembering that correlation is not causation, INBOUND is nonetheless persuaded that a fair amount of the 1.1 million is real and that it came from the UK. For a half-dozen years, the UK has exceeded projections that were less than what happened. And in 2018—with the country wilting from record heat, many Brits foregoing a long-haul holiday because of the World Cup competition and constant reminders that potential travelers were skittish about doing so because of Brexit—the country had an increase in the number of visitors it sent to North America.
Coincidence? Not when the UK, the largest overseas source market, was the subject of ceaseless promotion by USA including Mega-Fams that sent hundreds of British travel agents to the U.S. And now, added to the investment, there is, essentially, a U.S. marketplace coming up in September in the UK.
To re-play a recording of either the Brand USA Marketing Committee or its board of directors, visit www.thebrandusa.com, and click on “Media & Events.” You will come to links for webinars and past presentations, including links to the Marketing Committee meeting and the board of directors meeting mentioned here.
—Finally, there were more than a half dozen questions called into/or sent to Brand USA during the closing Q&A section of the board meeting. In the past, there were, maybe, a question or two asked.
(INBOUND is a service of Connect Travel, which will be at booth 2235 at IPW in Anaheim. Stop by and pay us a visit!)