As Travel Market Report said, Brand USA celebrated a big victory just before the holidays last year. Congress passed a seven-year extension of funding for the U.S. destination marketing organization, representing all 50 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
The organization, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary in March, has proven to be effective. A study by Oxford Economics showed that Brand USA had an influence in delivering 6.8 million visitors who spent $47 billion in the last six years.
Christopher Thompson, Brand USA’s CEO and president, talked to Travel Market Report about the organization’s evolution over his eight-year tenure as well as what the future will bring.
“I think we really zeroed in on storytelling as our way to amplify our partner stories, whether it’s destinations or brands, through digital and social campaigns that are tied to lifestyle interests. Over the course of the last few years, we had a “Hear the Music, Experience the USA” campaign that was focused on asking destinations to interpret iconic American songs. It started out with Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Want to Dance,” followed by “What I Like About You” by The Romantics, and “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band. We gave it to artists in five different destinations to interpret.
“In some cases, the platforms we’re on didn’t even exist 10 years ago, so I can’t imagine what we’ll ultimately end up doing. But I will tell you I think it’s healthy, every once in a while, to go in and decide what’s working and what’s not, so you’ll see that ongoing evolution. When you say, “What does the next 10 years look like?” as those platforms evolve and our ability to tell stories on what may not even exist yet comes along, we’re in a unique position to be able to be out in front of that in our space and really test it and innovate on behalf of our industry partners.
“Our first film was “National Parks Adventure.” It focused on the 100-year anniversary of National Parks, those iconic things that as the films says, they’re “not just for the current generation but for every generation,” reliving that story of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir and the Redwood Forest, and him convincing the president we need to create an agency that’s a keeper of these amazing assets. It was the highest-grossing documentary that year, and it’s approaching five million views globally, so it proved to be a great storytelling platform and a great story. Our second film, “American Musical Journey” can be found on Go USA TV, our streaming channel dedicated to content, telling the story of the USA that we launched last year. It has original content, including other long-form documentaries and our “Hear the Music” series, as well as content we’re curating.
“The third film, which was previewed at the Sundance Film Festival, has its global premiere 4th February 2020 at the Air and Space Museum, Washington DC. It returns to a documentary style, focused on the U.S. founded by trailblazers and the whole notion of exploration, and it chronicles where and how that’s occurred – from Louis and Clarke up to one of our modern day storytellers, John Herrington, who’s the first Native American astronaut. ”