Florida's 'Awaken' tourism campaign: Bland brand or big boost for struggling economy?
Wake up and good morning. Florida's counting big time on its tourism industry to help lead the struggling Sunshine State out of its worst economic downturn in decades. Visit Florida, the state's tourism promotion agency, just responded with a new branding/advertising message that, to me, comes across as a bland brand. But I have not seen the full promotions package and there may be more than initially meets the eye.
The new brand? Awaken Your Florida Side. The campaign was created for Visit Florida by their new advertising agency of record, DDB Miami, with consultation from The Hester Group, The Rodriguez Group, and Miles Media – VISIT FLORIDA’s African-American, Hispanic/Latin American, and multi-media agencies. Here's what Susannah Costello, Visit Florida's brand director, says of Awaken Your Florida Side:
"We all have a Florida side. It’s the part of us that longs for sandy beaches, romantic sunsets, and time in the sun with people we care about. It’s the great feeling we experience on a Florida vacation and take back home – or just dream of."
Given this winter's unforgiving accumulation of snow up north, you'd think Florida need only make rabid barking noises to get Americans to come to the Sunshine State. So we'll see if there is any measurable gain in Visit Florida's new ad campaign. Awaken Your Florida Side replaces a 2007 campaign called Shine. It was Florida's first national television advertising campaign, emphasizing the glow that visitors get from visiting Florida and being in the sun with family and friends.
The new Awaken campaign plays to the repeat Florida tourist. Here's more details on it from Visit Florida. Says Will Seccombe, Visit Florida's chief marketing officer:
"We know that 94 percent of our visitors have been to the state before and that Florida enjoys tremendous brand loyalty, so our job is to simply awaken the emotions from past visits to the Sunshine State."
The former Florida Department of Commerce will never live down the infamous, 1980s' campaign: Florida, the rules are different here. The slogan appeared at a time when South Florida faced strong criticism and a tourism backlash for its lawlessness spawned by drug gangs.
Frankly, the biggest marketing burst that will spark Florida tourism will probably be the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal Orlando this spring. The theme park is a bit fuzzy so far on how much marketing it will pursue globally and nationally, or whether it will focus more on trying to get tourists already in Orlando to divert their itineraries to the Potter show.
Either way, there's plenty of Potter buzz and will be sure to help boost Florida tourism numbers in 2010.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist