“Honestly, it’s not for everyone”: lessons in destination branding from Visit Nebraska

Looking too much at the competition keeps you behind. Often it’s more useful to look outside your industry – if you’re a destination, perhaps seeing how SaaS startups market a product launch, or how a popular media company runs its social media– rather than the tourism board next door.

If you know who you are and have a powerful sense of identity, you don’t need to worry about the competition – or telling the right story. You focus on sharing your story.

Nebraska’s new slogan, announced in October 2018, is one of my favourite destination branding moments from this year: “Honestly, it’s not for everyone”.

It’s a humble smile at how Nebraska was the ninth least-visited state in the USA in 2017. For four consecutive years, it’s come in dead last on a list of states that tourists are interested in visiting, according to research firm MMGY Global. But they're rolling with that.

In the promotional material below, they say, “we believe that only boring people get bored. So we invent our own fun”.

From Visit Nebraska

In a statement, the chair of the Nebraska Tourism Commission said they had high hopes for the new campaign. “We discovered that we can’t offer something to everyone — but to those that we can, this campaign speaks to their sense of adventure and discovering what we as Nebraskans are all about.”

Some locals are saying it's a waste of money and a "mistake" to have a "self-deprecating comment" as their state's slogan. But I wouldn't say that – I think there's a lot of fondness in there. And it's certainly better than "Nebraska Nice".

It’s funny and honest – and I think it's great branding. It's positioning Nebraska as an alternative to the crowds and hassle of top tourism destinations, and a place to just, well, do nothing. With our busy lives, that might actually be an appealing thing to a lot of us.

It reminds me of a great quote from Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge's book Silence: In the Age of Noise:

“As a publisher, I have learned that it’s possible to sell hundreds of thousands of books about knitting, brewing beer and stacking wood. A great many of us have a desire to return to something basic, authentic, and to find peace, to experience a small, quiet alternative to the din.”

Floating down a river in a livestock tank? Getting outside just to wander in nature? They fit that too.

From Visit Nebraska

Visit Nebraska also encourages those who think it could be their “cup of tea” to head to their website for a Travel Guide (hurrah for lead magnets). Good job, guys.