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South Dakota hopes the Mount Rushmore Mascots, who play a big role in state tourism efforts, will attract visitors.

South Dakota Department of Tourism via AP,

Do catchy ads snag tourists?

  • Article by: Mark Niquette and Jennifer Oldham
  • Bloomberg News
  • May 15, 2014 - 10:26 PM

The Nebraska Tourism Commission paid for months of research. More than 3,500 corporate leaders, potential visitors and residents were interviewed. Thursday, the marketing campaign debuted: “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice.”

Turns out that Nebraskans have a critical streak.

“It sounds boring,” said Andrew Norman, director of Hear Nebraska, an Omaha nonprofit he founded to change perceptions of the state as a bastion of corn and beef.

U.S. states hunting for the next “Virginia is for Lovers” budgeted more than $350 million in fiscal 2012-13 for advertising and promotion, the U.S. Travel Association said.

In April, Gov. Mark Dayton and state tourism officials announced plans for an aggressive push to increase tourism with a campaign dubbed “Only in Minnesota.” The state ranked 30th in state tourism spending last year.

Ads can fall flat or, worse, generate mockery.

Washington pulled the plug on “SayWa” after only six months in 2006. After more than two decades of “Georgia On My Mind,” the Peach State tried “Put Your Dreams in Motion.” That one died quickly. Alaska used “B4UDIE” for a month in 2005.

For every successful tourism slogan, perhaps 20 fail, said Barbara Lippert, a columnist for Mediapost.com. It’s difficult to sum up a state in a few words and please everyone.

Many campaigns “are corny and backward,” she said. “They just sort of go to that place where all bad ads end up, which is completely forgettable.”

Nationwide, tourism generated $887.9 billion in direct spending last year and $133.9 billion in revenue for governments, the U.S. Travel Association said. In Nebraska, it’s the third-largest income generator, bringing in $3.1 billion in 2012.

Some campaigns go international, such as “Virginia Is for Lovers” in the late 1960s. Another was the “I (Heart) NY” campaign in the 1970s.

Marketing professionals point to “Pure Michigan” as a success. Started in 2006, it features the tagline, “Your trip begins at Michigan.org.”

The $13 million Michigan spent on out-of-state advertising last year generated $1.2 billion in visitor spending.

In August, Colorado introduced an $800,000 rebranding: a green triangle imprinted with “CO” and “It’s our nature.” It was a bust.

Like Nebraska’s “Nice,” the new “Honest-to-Goodness Indiana” drew catcalls when it was rolled out in February.

David Klenosky, a professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., who has studied state marketing efforts predicted his state’s new slogan will “die a quick death.”

Nebraska also has a challenge, he said. “Nice is OK,” he said. “It’s like dating a nice girl. Maybe you don’t want that all the time.”

© 2014 Star Tribune