I realize that tourism is a tough industry. Selling an area’s vacation value, especially in these tough economic times, is not an easy task. Folks want a lot of bang for their buck and let’s face it, North Dakota isn’t exactly a California -replete with beaches and amusement parks. North Dakota has to sell from its core identity – an identity that is more earthy, practical and rooted in history. It is not the land of amusement parks, ski resorts or bikini clad babes. It is the land of unspoiled views, expansive skylines and welcoming people.
Interestingly, folks do get tired of taking vacations that are jam-packed with nonstop tourist traps; and, after awhile many of the amusement parks start to look the same and the insane costs associated with such vacations start to get old. Folks start to look for a different type of vacation – one that is more authentic, more easygoing and less structured specifically for the tourist market. That is when they start thinking about North Dakota. Unfortunately, being one of the last bastions for tourism dollars is not great news for the state’s tourism effort. The state has made a concerted effort to better brand and sell its value to tourists over the last handful of years with its Legendary campaign.
I like that campaign. I think it has done a good job of capturing the highlights of North Dakota. The branding - Legendary – is, in my mind, just right. It captures some of North Dakota’s allure and at the same time seems to justify the expenditure of folks hard-earned vacation dollars…after all, who wants to spend their money on another amusement park when they can experience something legendary? I give much credit to the minds that came up with the campaign – I think it is a winner.
The challenge though, in any tourism campaign, is to keep it fresh. As such, Legendary needs to be seen to represent different facets of North Dakota. It is in that attempt that the Legendary campaign took a bit of a nosedive this week. North Dakota’s tourism division put one of its up-and-coming print ads on Facebook this past week to see what kind of comments it would get and the comments weren’t good.
As you can see from the poster above, the pitch was, “Drinks, dinner, decisions. ARRIVE A GUEST. LEAVE A LEGEND.” Well, needless to say, this caused quite the furor. It was summarily pulled off the Facebook page after a slew of negative comments. The message was on the Legendary theme, but it was about being legendary in deed. Wow. That was one legendary misstep.
Now I could insert here, in typical Carol fashion, a whole collection of thoughts about why these gentlemen or the ladies could leave North Dakota as legends, but I will uncharacteristically refrain. You see, I understand that the words legend and legendary are not always positive connotations. I think North Dakota’s tourism division gets that as well about now.
Day nine hundred and twenty-one of the new forty – obla di obla da