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  • Five reasons why you’re wasting 97% of your advertising budget and what to do about it. see more

    Ninety-seven percent of destination marketing is ineffective, and it isn’t because of the medium you’re using! The reason isn’t because of National Geographic Traveler, Leisure +Travel, or Southern Living Magazine. It’s NOT a reflection on your digital advertising, television, radio or billboards. The reason is the content you’re giving them! 

    Here are the five reasons why you’re wasting 97% of your advertising budget and what to do about it.

    Reason #1: Trying to be all things to all people
    We're going to keep harping on this subject until you change your ways! Look at your ads. If your headline and the photography (or art) you use could fit just about anyone in your market, toss it and start over. Readers, viewers or listeners will give you four seconds to pull them in. If your message is generic, you will lose them instantly. If your ad starts with “One of the top 5 mountain biking destinations in the world,” and that quote is attributed to Biking Magazine, it may not draw us in if we're not a mountain biking enthusiast, but if we are, you just got our attention, big time. NARROW YOUR FOCUS!

    What to do: Join our association and download our “Words & Phrases to Avoid” poster and give copies to your marketing agency, graphic design agency and anyone charged with marketing your hotel, B&B, community, museum or attraction.

    If your marketing focus can fit anyone else in your market area, toss it and start over.

    Reason #2: Marketing place before experience
    We have the world at our fingertips – every community, lodging facility, and business – in a fraction of a second via the web. But we don’t search for places first, we search for experiences first and THEN the area or city. We search for “Best Italian restaurant, central Pennsylvania,” or “mountain biking trails, Southern Utah.” In your advertising and on printed materials always SELL the experience first, the location second.

    What to do: The name of your community (don’t market counties!), your hotel, your guide service – your business – should be at the BOTTOM of your ad, not at the top. Utah Tourism does a great job with its headlines promoting the Mighty Five (five national parks all located in Southern Utah) with photographic experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Then at the bottom of the ads you’re informed of what and where the parks are.

    Reason #3: Using mundane text and photography
    There’s nothing more boring than elevator music (video or radio ads), or photos of scenic vistas without a soul in sight. To win you MUST evoke emotion. If your headline is boring or generic we won’t remember it. We are drowning in advertising overload so your ads MUST be memorable. 

    What to do: Make sure you have photos of people enjoying your activities – whether in a spa, or careening down a mountainside on a bike, or reading a book in front of a cozy fire with snow falling outside. Your art should get the reader to instantly think “I want to do that!” And make sure it fits ONLY you in your marketplace.

    Reason #4: Not telling us WHY we should visit or buy from you
    Don’t tell us what you have, where you’re located, or who you are until you’ve told us WHY we should visit you. McDonald’s famous (and effective) campaign, “You deserve a break today” wasn’t about food. It was aimed at moms – they deserve a break today, so get up and get away – to McDonald’s. The most successful tourism campaign, perhaps in North American history, is Las Vegas’ “What happens here, stays here.” It’s not about what they have (entertainment, gambling) but WHY you would go there over other places.

    What to do: This one requires digging deep. Alpena, Michigan is hitting a home run with its “Sanctuary” brand based on the National Marine Sanctuary of Thunder Bay and the 54% of Americans who are dealing with stress in their lives. A water park that asks us “How loud can you scream?” will be more successful than the water park that tells us “The largest water park in Central Ohio.”

    Reason #5: Not creating a call to action
    If McDonald’s had told us, “You deserve a break, so consider heading to McDonald’s sometime,” the ad would have fallen flat. But by telling us, “You deserve a break TODAY (right now), so GET UP AND GET AWAY” (call to action), it became one of the most successful ads in company history. Nothing is worse than “Discover My Town” as the header, then a generic photo (or collage of photos) and then just a website address or phone number. There is no call to action.

    What to do: Always finish your ad with what you want people to do: “Space is limited, so call for your reservation now,” or “Log on now for the complete schedule…” or, as I’ve done in past Weekly What To Do’s: “Download your free Words & Phrases to Avoid poster.”

    What to do: To you we may be preaching to the choir. So how do you get this message to your local businesses? To your graphic design or ad agency? To other organizations also marketing your community? Join the Destination Development Association, where you get access to countless resources, including lots of video content, that go beyond what you’ll read here. Membership starts at just $250/year. You can access our resource center anytime, anywhere, and you can share the resources at meetings as well. This is the best way to get everyone on the same page, pulling in the same direction.

    • Melanie Patterson I am looking for the Words & Phrases Poster and cannot find it. Please help! Thank you!
      2 years ago
  • Article
    We’re exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day – far more than the mind can absorb. see more

    I was working with a group of people in Wisconsin who really put me to the test. The idea was to create a print ad that would actually get the attention of the reader and would pull them in.

    Our previous two blog posts have listed the words and phrases to avoid in your marketing efforts, followed by a checklist of what ads need in order to “close the sale.” Now it was time to actually put these rules to use.

    The group was tasked to come up with a corny saying, a funny quote, or something just ridiculous, and it was my job to turn it into a compelling ad. It was to be a third page print ad you’d see in a woman’s magazine, or a travel publication.

    After a few minutes one of the gals in the room jumped up and shouted “I’ve got it!” The line she gave me started with “One out of four people in this country are mentally imbalanced…”

    I’ll reveal the rest in a minute.

    I had 15-minutes to come up with something good. This quote was going to be tough to work with and my palms were getting sweaty under the pressure. I decided to use the quote to market a spa that was just down the street in Wisconsin Dells where we were working. I had just seen one of their ads, which featured the boring, overused header “Beyond Expectations.” Would that get you to go online or call for an appointment?

    The first thing I did was put the saying at the top of the ad. Then I went to and purchased a stock photo of a woman who looked a tad unbalanced, which would be the attention-getter. Then I purchased a second photo of a woman relaxing at a spa.

    Here’s the initial draft ad I was working with.















    Using these two photos and the zinger of a headline would certainly get the ad noticed. The famous ad guy, David Ogilvy once said that “on average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents of your marketing dollar.”

    I knew I was on the right track here, particularly since the audience was thinking “where’s he going with this?”. Then came the closer—the body text and call to action.

    Here’s what the ad said, starting with the headline and the rest of the quote I had to work with:

    “One out of four people in this country are mentally imbalanced. Think of your three best friends. If they seem ok, then you’re the one.”

    I concluded with:

    “Perhaps it’s time you found YOUR balance. Book a spa stay at the incredible Kalihari Spa’s “Sanity Retreat” this May. Bring your three best friends and save 30%. Book it right now while you’re thinking clearly. Only in Wisconsin Dells.”

    When the audience applauded, I knew that this was an ad that would get some attention. In fact, several women were ready to make reservations on the spot.















    Sure beats “Beyond Expectations.” Did you notice I mentioned the spa retreat for May, just before Mother’s Day?

    Are your ads getting noticed? Is there a compelling call to action?

    If this was easy, everyone would be doing it but the bottom line is that you must command the reader’s attention. We’re exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day—far more than the mind can absorb. To win you must reach deep and command attention. Sometimes it takes shock and awe. This one was a tad more subtle.

  • Are your tourism ads good enough to close the sale? see more

    If you start your tourism ad with your logo and tag line, who you are, where you are, or what it is you are trying to promote, your tactics are dead wrong. The problem? You haven’t told us WHY we should buy from you or visit you, nor is there a call to action. No wonder 97% of tourism print advertising is ineffective!

    Below are two sample full-page tourism ads with seven numbers on them (Number three is missing on the second one) and each number is in order of importance.
































    #1. The first and most important element is one single signature illustration (or photo) that will evoke an instant emotional response: fear, awesomeness, radical, a “wow” moment, or sublime. It tells the reader “ Wow! I want to go there!” or “I want that!” or, at least, a “What?” pulling them further in.

    #2. The “header,” or primary headline, is next. Here’s how tourism print ads work: the viewer will notice the photo or primary graphic in a second, and if it catches their attention they will read the header next – usually in the following second or two. The header, like the photo, must be enough to grab their attention. You have three seconds to pull them in. Just three seconds.

    #3. Now that you’ve grabbed their attention, you move them to the “sub-head” or follow-up sentence. This is the call to action. The goal: to make the reader want to know more. At this point you’ve held their attention for a whopping four to five seconds. The graphic image, the header, and sub-head MUST be good enough to pull the reader into the body text – your main paragraph.

    #4. The body text must get to the point in the first sentence. It must tell the reader WHY they need what it is you have to offer. Don’t tell me WHO you are, WHAT you are selling, or WHERE you are. Tell me WHY and that will pull me further into the text. The goal is to get the reader to log on or call for more information.

    #5. Now that you’ve pulled them into your ad, here is where you say, “by the way, here’s who we are” – and that’s where your logo is placed.

    #6. THEN you tell them WHERE you are: your location, or how they find you: a website address or phone number or physical address.

    #7. And last on the list is your tag line – the “anchor.” The few words that cement ownership of your brand – what it is you want to be known for. For BMW it’s the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” That’s the tag line that makes up the final exclamation point.

    Are your tourism ads good enough to close the sale?



  • Article
    A full ninety-seven percent of ALL destination marketing and advertising is ineffective. see more

    The oft-quoted quip goes something like this: “I know that half my advertising dollars are wasted. The problem is I don’t know which half.”

    Truth be told, when it comes to community-related marketing efforts, a full ninety-seven percent of ALL destination marketing and advertising IS ineffective. That’s right 97%. Think city, county, state, province, region, or even a country. Billions are spent every year trying to attract new residents, business investment, economic development and tourism. And billions are wasted every year because the message is mundane, overused, and just like that of everyone else.

    If you want to create destination marketing messages that stick, start by memorizing these three words: JETTISON THE GENERIC. If your message can fit anyone, toss it and start over.

    Here are 40 words and phrases you need to avoid, at all costs, in your destination marketing efforts:

    • Explore
    • Discover
    • Unique (so overused it’s come to mean “just like everyone else”)
    • Four season destination
    • Fun for the whole family
    • Naturally fun (anything with the word “natural” in it)
    • Something for everyone (have you ever gone anywhere because they had something for everyone?)
    • Outdoor recreation (name a place that doesn’t have this)
    • Unlike anywhere else
    • So much to see and do
    • Where the seasons come to life
    • Historic downtown
    • Center of it all (have you ever gone anywhere because it was the center of anything?)
    • Best kept secret
    • We have it all
    • Experience…
    • Visit (name of destination)
    • Beauty and heritage
    • Gateway (a gateway is something you pass through to go somewhere else)
    • Close to it all
    • Right around the corner
    • Your playground
    • So much history
    • So much to offer
    • The place for all ages
    • … and so much more
    • Home away from home
    • A slice of heaven
    • It’s all right here
    • Recreation unlimited
    • The perfect getaway (or place)
    • The place for families
    • Start your vacation here
    • Recreational paradise
    • Take a look!
    • A great place to live, work and play (the most overused slogan in the world)
    • Location, location, location
    • Open for business
    • Your adventure place (anything with the word adventure in it)
    • Unique shops & restaurants

    Could all of these apply to you? Could these fit virtually anyone anywhere? No wonder our messages are falling on deaf ears.

    Roger was speaking in Wisconsin at the state tourism conference and showed this list of words and phrases to about 1,100 attendees. After his opening keynote a woman came up to him, smiled, and sheepishly shared “I think we’re using all of those.”

    If you are using any of these, it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, but you are doing what everyone else is doing. We are typically exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day. If you want to have resonating marketing, you have to ask yourself the following questions: How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you get noticed? What differentiates you?

  • Article
    Repetition is an essential part of your advertising strategy. see more

    Some things never change. The old adage, “you tell them once, tell them twice, and then again” still remains true today.

    Sitting in his London den in 1885, Thomas Smith wrote a guide entitled “Successful Advertising", which is still used by advertising experts today. While perhaps a slight exaggeration, it is absolutely true that repetition gets results. Creativity is very important, but nothing is as vital as repetition to get your message to stick.

    Repetition gets results:

    The 1st time a person looks at an advertisement, they do not see it

    The 2nd time, they do not notice it

    The 3rd time, they are simply conscious of it

    The 4th time, they faintly remember having seen something of the kind before

    The 5th time, they half read it

    The 6th time, they turn up their nose at it

    The 7th time, they read it through and say “Pshaw!”

    The 8th time, they yell “there’s that confounded thing again!”

    The 9th time, they wonder if there’s anything to it

    The 10th time, they think it might possibly suit someone else

    The 11th time, they will ask their neighbor if they have tried it or know anything about it

    The 12th time, they wonder how the advertiser can make a profit with it

    The 13th time, they rather think it must be a good thing

    The 14th time, they believe it is what they have wanted for a long time

    The 15th time, they resolves to try it as soon as they can afford it

    The 16th time, they examine the store address carefully, and make a memorandum of it

    The 17th time, they think to ask their partner about it

    The 18th time, they are painfully reminded how much they need that particular item

    The 19th time, they calculate to see if they would have enough money left over for food if they bought it

    The 20th time, they frantically rush, in a fit of mad desperation, and buy it!

    The moral of the story:

    When you advertise, carefully pick your medium, then stay with that medium repeating your message over and over and over until it sticks in the minds of your potential customers. This creates crucial “top of mind awareness,” and ultimate success. Repetition gets results.

    Now, we've gotta run! There's something we desperately need to buy!

  • Article
    Millions of dollars are spent every WEEK designing, printing and distributing rack brochures. see more

    Millions of dollars are spent EVERY WEEK designing, printing and distributing rack brochures. Above is a typical Certified Brochure display rack. Which brochures jump out at you?

    In a rack full of brochures people see only the top 2.5 inches of your cover. Make sure it is so compelling people want to grab it. Here are the five things you can do to make sure your brochure is the one they grab and makes the sale.



    1. On the cover, especially in the top 2.5", use yellow on black, or black on yellow. Yellow always attracts the eye. Did the Sea Kayaking brochure first catch your eye in the photo of the brochure rack?

    Now look at the brochure below, left and right. Would the left one get your attention at all? In this case we simply superimposed bold yellow lettering over the original art. Get’s your attention doesn’t it? We also sold the experience – Sailing Adventures – rather than the company. Once we grab the brochure THEN you can tell us who you are.




    2. Tell us what you are selling. The name of your location – your city, town or county – is not going to attract us. Have you ever gone anywhere because it was a county? People are looking for activities, so always sell the experience first. Take a look at the following example. If you were in Western New York State and saw the brochure for Fredonia would you pick it up? But what about the one next to it?



    Now look at the full brochures. They are actually the same brochure. All we did was change the top to sell the experience first, and then the location.



    3. Get our attention! Take a look at this brochure (below). Are you curious? The Houseboat from Hell actually refers to Hells Canyon located between Oregon and Idaho. Notice the use of yellow on a dark background? Very smart.



    4. Once we’ve picked up the brochure and open it then tell us WHY we should buy your product or visit your community. Don't tell us who you are, or what you have to offer (your facilities) until you've convinced us why we should care. We head to the water park to scream like crazy. It’s not about the facilities, it’s about the experience.



    5. Avoid using generic words and phrases in your titles and body text. If I can take of the name of your community, attraction, or business and exchange it for someone else's name, and your text still rings true, then it's too generic, and you just lost a sale. Go to this link to see the 40 words and phrases to avoid in your marketing efforts.

    If you've got a great brochure that really works, send me a PDF or hard copy, and we'll post your outstanding examples of how to do it right!

  • Funny promotional video for Kansas City created by locals see more

    The typical tourism promotional videos are frequently boring and commonly generic. But, in 2013 Emerson Rapp and friends created a comedic video to promote tourism in Kansas City, by showing the “real” Kansas City. The resulting 1:45 video does an excellent job “selling” the city, while getting the viewer to laugh and listing places they want to visit. AND with well over 400,000 views, it is actually one of the best tourism marketing videos ever produced for Kansas City. Just goes to show how a comedy sketch can actually increase tourism spending and enhance the “coolness” of a city.


  • Article
    You always build your brand through public relations; advertising is used to maintain your position. see more

    You always build your brand through public relations. Advertising is used to maintain your position—only once you “own” the brand.

    Remember, brands are perceptions—what people think of you. That happens when articles are written about you, through word-of-mouth, and always through a third party. Communities are sometimes dealt negative brands via the same vehicles: word-of-mouth, bad news, or articles that all paint a negative, but are often true, perception of the community, whether fairly deserved or not. The same methods hold true for well-branded communities and the same tools must be used if you need to reposition or redevelop a brand. It all starts with a strong PR effort.

    Public relations, intertwined with third-party endorsements, is absolutely critical to developing a strong brand. These days, social media has become a primary ingredient and tool to “brand building.” Perhaps no community in North America has done a better job at branding than Asheville, North Carolina. Check out their website at Cool. Hip. Artsy. Funky. And the must-visit place along the 500-mile Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Advertising is what you think of yourself. Branding is what other people think of you. To win, you must have those third-party endorsements that only an effective PR effort can provide. Then when you “own” your brand, advertise it like crazy to cement that ownership position into the minds of the people you hope to attract.

    No matter how many “wine countries” we develop in North America, Napa Valley will always “own” the wine capital brand. There are Amish communities throughout the central and eastern U.S. states, but Lancaster County, Pennsylvania “owns” the Amish brand. No matter how many casinos and gambling destinations we develop, Las Vegas will always “own” the gambling and adult-fun capital brand.

    Brands are always about ownership. And that happens through PR, followed by advertising to cement that ownership position.