Social media went into meltdown earlier this month when an unconventional tourism campaign strapline promoting the Northern Territory appeared in our news feeds. While not a product of Tourism NT (the Northern Territory Government’s official tourism body), the seemingly official advertisements went viral around the world almost overnight.
It is often said that no publicity is bad publicity, however many in the industry have questioned whether the resulting mass media attention generated will instead lead to a negative image perception of the Northern Territory, and indeed Australia, as a desirable holiday destination.
Love it or hate it, the prominent strapline certainly got people around the world talking about the Northern Territory, albeit for a short period of time. Despite its crude connotation, the volume and value of coverage generated surely would be a dream for Tourism NT’s public relations team. Some experts argue that to stand-out in today’s cluttered media landscape you need to be controversial. The mysterious group behind the guerrilla stunt said that they wanted to attract young travelers to the NT and felt a tongue-in-cheek strapline would generate attention. That it certainly did. Aside from achieving global media coverage, the group also managed to amass a social media following in excess of 10,000 in a matter of days. No mean feat!
Others in the industry however are deeply embarrassed and concerned about the image being projected to international audiences. Many Australians arduously work to shake off their country’s ocker image, and instead try to project a sophisticated and cultured view of Australia. This certainly is reflected in Tourism Australia’s latest advertising campaign which targets cashed-up experience seekers. That approach seems to be working, with a 10% increase in visitor arrivals and a 14% increase in visitor expenditure year-on-year (for the year ending 30 June 2016 compared with the same period prior) according to Tourism Australia research. Comparatively in 2006 Tourism Australia launched their own controversial campaign strapline “So where the ****** hell are you?” which played on Australia’s world-renowned colloquialisms and laid-back nature. The campaign was later banned in the UK for the use of a certain word, and had to be watered down in Singapore to “So where are you?” Critics of that campaign have since argued that despite the mass media attention generated, the campaign overall failed to deliver an increase in tourists, its ultimate aim.
“So why do we need these straplines anyway?” In a nutshell and quite simply, branding is what sticks in our mind about a product or service (or destination), and is the impression that remains after marketing tactics have been implemented. It is vital to have proper branding that elevates your entity, as customers will make purchasing decisions based on more than just your product or service features. Branding is the impression that your customer gets from their interaction with you, your product/service and your company.
So having a stand-out strapline is the key to success? Not necessarily. You must firstly look at your target audience closely and find ways to resonate with them. Being bold, innovative and daring will often help achieve cut-through, but to reach your campaign goals (whether they be increased visitors or sales) you must appeal to your target audience.
At the end of the day, the controversial campaign strapline may have generated mass interest in the Northern Territory, but the proof will always be in the conversion. Will it lead to an increase in young people, or visitors in general travelling to the NT? Time will tell. Controversial campaign strapline or not, the key to marketing success is in truly understanding your target audience and resonating with them.
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