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A look at the Marketing and Tourism Materials of

Oklahoma and Kentucky

Overview

If you follow this, you’ll know I’m planning an RV vacation later this month with a rented 31 foot brand new motor home from Cruise America.

I’ve started collecting digital and print versions of visitor guides from each state we potentially will be going through.  As more and more states arrive I’ve had a chance to look through them.  Having been in the tourism business for well over 25 years now I tend to look at this type of thing with a slightly different and more critical eye.

I also think carefully about what attracts me to an ad in a visitors guide and why I would want to go there.  Also the entire planning process is interesting to me and how does one help the consumer in the planning process.  On the tourism promotion side, I would want to make it easy for the consumer to spend as much time in my state as possible.

Oklahoma Visitors Guide Arrives First

Oklahoma is the first state’s materials to arrive.  I was so impressed with the speed and content that I even posted on my personal Facebook account a picture of all the materials they sent.  Plenty of comments arrived and all were positive though some wondered why Oklahoma and others posted about wonderful things in the state from the arts scene in Tulsa to having pie along Route 66.

Plenty of materials arrive from the State of Oklahoma almost forcing you to spend extra time in the state.  The Route 66 guide was exceptionally well done.

Plenty of materials arrive from the State of Oklahoma almost forcing you to spend extra time in the state. The Route 66 guide was exceptionally well done.

Immediately the state was receiving more buzz as a result of being so speedy with their response.  I even tweeted it out and tagged the state’s tourism arm for further outreach and buzz.  And they responded!

Cover of the very well done Oklahoma Visitors Guide.

Cover of the very well done Oklahoma Visitors Guide.

All this without even looking at any of the contents of the various books they sent.  I specifically asked for brochures on the state’s two major zoos and those were also included.  So impressive when a state can get its marketing and distribution of those materials done promptly and accurately.  The Oklahoma City Zoo’s rack card states that it is “Oklahoma’s #1 attraction and #3 in the nation!”  I couldn’t find any attribution to the claim and wonder seriously if it could even remotely be the third best, biggest, most popular, highest rated, or whatever it is, in the nation.  But it makes me want to find out.  Remember, I’m from Florida and our attractions are some of the best too!  Not that I’m not biased but I served as Chairman of the Board of the Florida Attractions Association back in the late 1990s and remain very involved in the industry.

The Oklahoma City Zoo rack card along with a nice and comprehensive book on outdoor activities from the State of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma City Zoo rack card along with a nice and comprehensive book on outdoor activities from the State of Oklahoma.

Now comes the thought process of someone unfamiliar with the state and using the visitor’s guide as a planning tool.  My overall impression going through the Oklahoma Route 66 book was great.  Simple route to follow and here’s what is along the way.  I glanced through the others and realized there was quite a bit to see in Oklahoma.  The first key to any state promoting tourism is to get people to want to visit; the second is to get them to stay as long as possible.  I must say Oklahoma made it quite easy to want to visit and stay more than a day–which is kind of what we were originally thinking–to just drive through.

This is a great way to market Historic Route 66 with this fold out map in the guide.  Really makes you want to go.

This is a great way to market Historic Route 66 with this fold out map in the guide. Really makes you want to go.

Thematically organizing a trip to a state makes sense in many ways.  Oklahoma organizes things by region – something so many states do.  It assumes someone just wants to visit one area and they are not that mobile – something not terribly true in many cases.  I don’t know the statistics but I can’t imagine there is a majority of visitors arriving by air staying in one region.  If there is, there is probably a fault with data collection.

Oklahoma also included a guide to State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Guide.  Not being familiar with the state in the winter, when we are traveling, it is difficult to determine if we want to visit these terrific places.  But for anyone interested in outdoor activities, the State of Oklahoma certainly tempts you with a lot of variety and many activities in this book.

So many niche travel markets are reached through specialty publication by Oklahoma.

So many niche travel markets are reached through specialty publication by Oklahoma.

Kentucky’s Promotional Material

Its totally random, but let’s have a look at Kentucky and what they are tempting us with.  I recently had cousins from England visit who happened to be in Louisville for a conference and raved about the place.  I was looking forward to seeing what Kentucky sent us and found the visitor’s guide very well done at first glance.  When I started going through it more carefully, I turned to the map on pages 3 and 4 only to find myself trying to figure out what states bounded it and where.

Kentucky's Visitors Guide

Kentucky’s Visitors Guide

I started seeing things that looked just a little too braggadocios such as various festivals that were labeled “international” in their name.  I wondered what other countries were entered into the Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro for example.  A lot of really great attractions were clearly before me from natural ones to historical ones to ones made in Kentucky.  Plenty attracted me but I had no idea if I could get from Harrodsburg to Bardstown easily.  The guide book is, as in the case of many state tourism offices, laid out regionally rather than thematically.

Great layout showing niche interests in the Kentucky Visitors Guide.

Great layout showing niche interests in the Kentucky Visitors Guide.

There was the unusual Creation Museum that “is a state-of-the-art facility presenting biblical history.”  The promotional photograph in the editorial section of the guide shows a white family with a dinosaur.  I would love to see this place just to find out what is being conveyed.  Later on in the guide I find an advertisement for Dinosaur World – they are also including a white family in their materials.  In fact, I realize that in virtually all advertisements, and to a lesser extent editorial, it is white families that are the target market.

A well done ad for a small town called Princeton that really gives you a feel for the town.

A well done ad for a small town called Princeton that really gives you a feel for the town.

Sure, the defense would be that there is a black child with two white girls in front of a log cabin.  Staged by an ad agency is my guess.  In fact, upon closer inspection (which this isn’t about) she appears in a different picture on page 36 and another on page 8 both of which are different than the cover photograph.  I scanned the audience in the Kentucky Derby editorial photograph and couldn’t find any diversity in the real life audience.  I haven’t been to Kentucky and can’t wait to see it.  I am sure I’ll find diversity – I just was surprised at how lacking it was in the advertising and editorial in the visitor’s guide.

Various counties and cities, chambers of commerce and convention and visitors bureaus advertise in state-wide visitors guides.  It is always interesting to see what some of these places do to attract tourists.  One ad in the Kentucky guide stood out as being so incredibly obscure was the one from Murray.  It hangs its hat on the fact that it is the “friendliest small town in America.”  I’d like to see it but the full page ad just shows two white blond-haired women, one with very white teeth and the other blowing bubbles.  The town’s advertising tagline is “a whole new reason to smile it’s friendlier here.”  I’m so curious to find out if there is actually anything to see or do there.

An awful ad for Murray, Kentucky.  I'm sure it is very friendly and I can't wait to blow bubbles there with the blonde women.

An awful ad for Murray, Kentucky. I’m sure it is very friendly and I can’t wait to blow bubbles there with the blonde women.

One thing that really was nice in the Kentucky Visitors Guide was the Certified Cultural Districts of which there are five.  That made me want to add one or several of these towns to the list.  There was also some really good editorial and photoraphy showing birthplaces, capitals, famous Kentuckians, events, history/heritage and more.  Of about sixteen pages, all very well laid out with excellent editorial content, there was only one photograph that showed any diversity.  And there were quite a few group and crowd shots.  It just struck me as odd perhaps because I expect a state like Kentucky to have diversity.  I may be wrong and can’t wait to see the state.

ky photo (2)

Kentucky did well with showing a lot of outdoors activities. Unfortunately we will be there in November and the guide really seemed geared toward warmer weather travel.

Summary

The bottom line is that we can’t wait to explore these two states.  Kentucky made us work a bit harder to plan what we want to see, but we’re determined.  All in all both states did a great job of enticing us though Oklahoma definitely presented the state better and with more information and with a more professional layout, design and quality of photography.  Kentucky needs to try harder and work with the local advertisers to help them create a better image.  I found it fascinating looking at the two side by side and have learned a lot from this simple comparison.

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