America's First-Ever Marketing Strategy Is Dotty and Dumb

Is America's tourism market share shriveling because our nation is no longer awesome? No. It's shriveling because we're not marketing America's (incontestable, eternal) awesomeness enough. Enter Brand USA, propagators of America's first-ever global, "unified" (and dumb) marketing strategy.

Brand USA is a private-public tourism organization formed by Congress in 2010 to encourage (trick) spendy foreigners—particularly from "booming" nations such as Brazil and China—to come here and buy our stuff, visit our pretty canyons and lakes, stimulate our economy, and help create our jobs. Its board of directors is appointed by the U.S. Department of Commerce and its staff is led by a bunch of execu-dudes from various relevant industries, including marketing and hospitality. On Monday, Brand USAers traveled to London to reveal key ingredients of their campaign, which they'll implement in full in 2012.

As Ad Age reports, the strategy includes a brand-new tagline for America. It's this: "United States of Awesome Possibilities." Because "America is a suburban middle-aged dad who plays in a Counting Crows cover band, and foreign travelers are disinterested teens who listen to rap" was too long. It's true that America is full of possibilities, from extreme wealth to life imprisonment in a federal penitentiary. America: It's what you make of it! (Maybe that would have been a better slogan.)

In addition to the tagline is America's new logo, displayed above. There's nothing particularly "American" about it, but this is intentional, IBT reports: "The logo plays down any hint of patriotism and is meant to represent what Brand USA calls 'the United States of Awesome Possibilities.'" (If you belong to the Tea Party, commence fuming about the purple dots not being red.) Such detachment from all the flag-waving nationalism that goes on here is refreshing, but at the same time the logo seems most appropriate for a technology company headquartered in a reflective glass building that's located in an office park out by the airport.

But maybe we're not reading into the logo enough? According to a press release, the secret's in the dots. The dots form a "21st-century brand" by "joining together" and "symbolizing the boundless possibilities of the U.S." At the same time, they're also supposed to represent "the diversity of [America's] people"—which might explain why some of them are separated from the U-S-A, even while "joining together." Maybe the isolated dots are representative of America's marginalized communities—the atheists, the incarcerated, the Wallflower-Americans, the poorest people in Appalachia. They all look so lonely out there in the white space, all by themselves.

Aside from the tagline and the dots, Brand USA's campaign also includes a website called Discover America where foreigners can check out info and pictures about the places, amenities, and deals (coming soon) that America has to offer. Our favorite page is Travel Tips, which gives folks the basics on American customs, culture, and what to expect upon their arrival. Such as:

  • ATM fees. "Some banking networks charge fees of $1-2 per transaction," the site says. Actually, some banks charge $3 or more, so this info is misleading. In Cleveland, which has the lowest fees in the country (and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum!), the average fee is $2.06. Price-fixing is one of America's greatest freedoms.
  • No free doctors. "Health care is superior in the US but it can be very expensive because there is no universal health care," the site warns. At least they're being upfront, though "IF YOU GET SICK HERE, WE WILL BANKRUPT YOU" would have been more direct.
  • Encounters with OCD people. "Be aware that Americans are fanatics about showering and hygiene." The subtext: Some foreigners stink. Will suggesting that foreigners sometimes stink, and that they should try not stink (or stink less) during their time in America, make them more or less likely to visit? We wonder.
  • Americans who are actually polite when using their cell phones. "Keep your voice down when talking on a mobile phone in public," the site advises. Also: "And only use your phone in appropriate places where others will not be disturbed by being a party to your conversation." Translation: "These are customs that no American ever follows, but we want you to try them out."
  • Handshakes. However, they fail to mention the importance of hand sanitizer in appeasing fanatically sterile Americans. Details count.
  • Friendly kisses on the cheek from strangers. Is this a new tradition? No stranger has ever kissed us on the cheek. Oh, except that one guy on the bus, but that wasn't really "friendly."
  • A "well-maintained and extensive" transportation system. If you don't count the roads.

Also, you'll note that under the heading "U.S. Holidays," the website mentions how Virginia celebrates Lee-Jackson Day but fails to mention that Chicago celebrates Casimir Pulaski Day. Something very wrong about that.

Despite Brand USA's efforts, we're not very inspired to visit America any time soon—and we live here. But we tend to respond to marketing campaigns by doing the opposite of what they ask us to do/buy/consume. We're also of the mindset that if you have to make such a big fuss about out how awesome you are, you're probably desperate and lame. What do you think about the campaign, though? Will dots lead to jobs?

[IBT, Discover America]