TexasThe other night, a commercial came on that asked me to visit a certain state during my vacation. (I’m going to leave names out of it because I really don’t want to tick off a whole state at this point in my life) This state seemed to be a lovely place. The food looked good. And there were a lot of really scenic trees. And the denizens seemed to smile an awful lot.

And then a few minutes later, the same commercial came on again. Scenic, yummy, trees, nice glowing white chompers. But wait, it wasn’t for the same state.

Suddenly I went back 20 years and was working on the Texas Tourism account. I remember looking at how it had marketed itself prior to my company landing the account. Ads reminded travelers that it was big. It was full of cowboys. And people seemed to smile a lot.

The whole marketing direction was based on a tagline : “Have a big time in Texas.” But it really didn’t tell me much more than that.

And predictably, Texas was ranked number 17 in vacation destinations in the United States.

Well, also predictably, the state muckety-mucks in Texas wanted to change that, so they moved the account to the agency I was working for at the time.

Our goal was to take a state known for cows, cactus and cowboys and reposition its perception it in travelers’ minds. We needed to quickly change attitudes and misperceptions (okay, I admit it, they’re not all misperceptions) and begin to market the true Texas, not the stereotype.

Texas is big. But it’s also spectacularly diverse in geography, in cities, in people. And you can?t see it all at once. But you can see parts of it that offered you what you wanted in a vacation.

Sure the state is full of cowboys, cows and cactus, but it also has major metropolitan cities that are destinations themselves with world-class art, dining, shopping and other activities. The state has beaches – a lot of beaches, actually. The state has mountains. The state has thickets full of pine trees that preside over lakes and rivers that are an angler’s dream come true.

Because to us, Texas was “Like a whole other country.”

And that was our positioning. That was the well from which all ideas, creative, media, marketing, Interactive and PR flowed.

From 1989 to 1995, interest in Texas as a potential travel destination jumped 150%. Texas travel revenues increased from $18 billion to $25.4 billion during that time. And Texas jumped from number 17 to the number two travel destination in the country, ahead of Florida, and right behind California.

By positioning Texas as a “whole other country,” we actually were able to do three things:

1. Turn Texas’s size as a weakness and make it a strength
2. Actually offer a lot of things travelers long for, and on a grand scale
3. Have fun with the whole Texas braggadocio mentality and turn it back on ourselves

As I looked back at the numbers for the Texas Tourism campaign, I wondered what those numbers would look like with today’s more technical, more targeted marketing channels.

There?s never been more efficient, more involving, more resonant tools available to connect those you want to reach with your brand, and connect them to people who are already fans of your brands to act as brand ambassadors. At Rawle Murdy, that is not only something we understand, it’s something we live by. You’ll see this same philosophy for our clients, Royal Palms, Wild Dunes and Sunriver, to name a few. But it never fails to amaze me how a lot of beautiful places, with a lot to offer a traveler, forget the basic lesson of branding.

If a state known for cowboys, cactus and cows can go from back of the pack to number two in under five years, no less, what could your state or destination be doing in these times of more technical, more targeted marketing channels?

But then again, without a brand that offers a potential traveler something motivating by way of a truly accurate and original way of putting down real estate in their minds,

Do me a favor?better yet, do yourself a favor: Look at your tourism advertising brand initiative and ask yourself honestly, does what we’re saying make people say, “I have to be there?”

And one more thing: Watch a lot of TV. You’ll probably come to the same conclusion I came to.

Texas Tourism logo