Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Cities, Nations Addicted to Grocery List Marketing

Audiences Tune Out Often Repeated Claims

Cities from Washington D.C. to Warsaw, nations from Malta to Mexico, each compete to attract tourism spending and business investment.

Too often the leadership of cities or states rely upon "The List" in communicating the story of their place.

The result is predictable.

The tourism and investment audiences mayors and governors seek to attract tune out, as they have heard it all before.

Such marketing claims confer commodity status upon any place otherwise believed as "special" by its inhabitants.

When looking at marketing as an opportunity to build reputation equity, a commodity is the last thing any nation or place wants to see itself labeled.

What is The List?

The List is a formulaic approach, similar to reliance upon a shopping list of commodity grocery items, to developing the engagement story of a tourism destination or economic development zone.

But reliance upon The List is not effective in building the reputation of a place, so that people places want to attract are in fact engaged.

The List is a recital of what seem to be "attractions" promoted by those already engaged and affiliated with their place, including claims such as:

  1. a young, lively city, with a 
  2. vibrant nightlife, a
  3. glimpse of ancient civilization, a
  4. cultural feast, a
  5. musical odyssey,
  6. stunning scenery, a
  7. spectacular coastline, 
  8. museums, 
  9. shopping, 
  10. dining,
  11. hospitality, 
  12. lifestyle benefits, also described as 
  13. quality of life, 
  14. relaxation, 
  15. energy, vibrancy, 
  16. theatre, 
  17. sporting events,
  18. festivals, 
  19. arts, 
  20. culture, 
  21. heritage,
  22. outdoor attractions, 
  23. golf, 
  24. our people, 
  25. and more!,
  26. and ______________ [add any common attrtibute, such as "great hotels"]


Similar to overused claims such as innovative or high quality for technology products, planting a city or nation flagpole on claims of dining, shopping, museums and friendly people creates the effect opposite of what a marketing campaign should achieve.

Such marketing claims paint the place as banal and uninteresting. The reason is easy to see, when stepping into the shoes of a tourist or business developer.

Tourists and developers assume dining, shopping, museums and friendly people exist in any city or destination.

When confronted with these messages they become white noise to the listener, and thus unworthy of an investment of time to listen further.

But yet, government decision makers return to The List time and again.

As if addicted.

An addiction offering a short term high through lavish self-praise, which for a government leader is easy to explain to their constituency as the message is so darn POSITIVE. But the citizenry is already convinced—they previously decided to "pay" by living or working there—while the tourist or business developer has not.

Instead, the tourist or developer has to pay, literally, when they pay attention—they pay with their time and mental effort, neither of which they are likely to invest when a city or nation shouts in self-flattery.

The List does not speak to the soul of a place, nor to the soul of the tourist or investor. Rather, claims pulled from The List speak functionally rather than emotionally, and do not differentiate one place from another, nor answer the seminal question of any destination city or place: Why do we matter?

Instead of touting dining or shopping, or other overused claims from The List, a destination must be able to verbalize the attraction one cannot find closer to home, often an emotional truth a place may uniquely define and own as their memorable flagpole.

But, as any addict will tell you, seeking help for the compulsion is the first step to recovery.

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