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Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)

Published online in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/jtr.720

Case Study

Branding a Memorable Destination

Experience. The Case of Brand Canada
Simon Hudson1,* and J. R. Brent Ritchie2
Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4.
World Tourism Education & Research Centre, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4

Many destinations around the world sell
themselves in very similar ways; imagery
centres around overused icons, such as
nature, beaches, families and couples all
having fun. The tone of messaging is also
generic, usually focusing on the ideas of
escape and discovery. However, some
destinations have developed a clear, unique
positioning by branding the destination
experience rather than the physical
attributes of their destination, capturing the
consumers attention with a more
compelling and urgent reason to visit. In
order to emulate and compete with these
countries, Canada has recently undergone a
rebranding exercise called Brand Canada.
After presenting a conceptual framework
for understanding the brand-building
process, this paper describes the rebranding
of Canada, a campaign that has focused on
the tourist experience, creating marketing
messages based on these experiences to
appeal to the emotions of potential
travellers. Copyright 2008 John Wiley &
Sons, Ltd.
*Correspondence to: S. Hudson, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW,
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4.
E-mail: simon.hudson@haskayne.ucalgary.ca

Received 22 June 2008; Revised 22 September 2008; Accepted

2 October 2008

Keywords: destination branding; tourism

marketing; Brand Canada

n an increasingly competitive global marketplace, the need for destinations to create

a unique identity to differentiate themselves
from competitors has become more critical
than ever. Today, most destinations claim to
have spectacular scenery, superb attractions,
friendly people, and a unique culture and
heritage. However, these factors are no longer
differentiators, and successful destination
branding lies in its potential to reduce substitutability. To achieve this, destination marketers are increasingly focusing on the tourist
experience, and creating marketing messages
based on these experiences that will appeal to
the emotions of potential travellers. This paper
takes a closer look at the process of branding
a destination experience, using the Brand
Canada campaign as a case study. The paper
is structured as follows. The rst section discusses the evolution of experiential marketing
and how it differs from more traditional marketing. The second section looks at the branding of an experience, and how some destinations
around the world have adhered to a four-step
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

brand-building process in order to brand their
destination experience. A case study on an
experiential marketing campaign Brand
Canada is then presented followed by a
discussion section. The objective of the paper
is not to provide an exhaustive review of the
destination branding literature; rather, to use a
case study methodology to provide valuable
insight for both academics and practitioners
into the process of branding a destination
experience. The case study method also serves
to identify the critical success factors necessary
for effective experiential marketing, an area
that has received very little attention in the
tourism literature.
Experiential marketing is a relatively new
marketing orientation and provides a contrast
to traditional marketing. Whereas traditional
marketing frameworks view consumers as
rational decision-makers focused on the
functional features and benets of products,
experiential marketing views consumers as
emotional beings, focused on achieving pleasurable experiences (Williams, 2006). According to practitioners, such as Schmitt (1999),
experiential marketing describes the point of
engagement between a brand and its consumer. If executed correctly, it generates shortterm behaviour change and builds an emotional
connection that creates a profound relationship and ultimately a rational response to
brand and product purchase (Robertson, 2007).
It is argued that as the science of marketing
evolves, experiential marketing will become
the dominant tool of the future (Williams,
2006). The concept of the experience economy
era was formulated by Pine and Gilmore (1998)
who advocated providing special experiences
and unforgettable memories as the key to competitiveness. Schmitt (1999) was another early
advocate, suggesting that experiences could
engage the consumers senses, sight, sound,
touch and feeling in an unforgettable way.
Experiential marketing recognizes that consumer interest is not restricted to purely functional benets, but to the consumption of a
total experience (Leighton, 2007). This experience will have a positive effect on emotion and,
subsequently, on behavioural intention through
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

S. Hudson and J. R. B. Ritchie

the mechanism of satisfaction (Tsaur et al.,
But experiential marketing does not just
mean having an experiential offering. The
experience must also be deliberately marketed
in an experiential way (Petkus, 2004). In order
to promote tourism experiences, marketers
have to think beyond traditional advertising
techniques. As well as communicating the
obvious, marketing campaigns need to bring
brands to life by dazzling consumer senses,
touching their hearts and stimulating their
minds (Widdis, 2001). Experience advertising
therefore requires more creative expression on
the part of advertisers. Campaigns of the past
were built on bricks and mortar, whereas,
increasingly, advertisers are trying to touch
emotions and get into the consumer psyche.
Advertising now is more about reasons why
people do things and less about rational things
that people factor into their decision-making.
Over the years, an array of research has been
conducted with an attempt to understand destination branding. Whereas signicant progress has been made in determining the attributes
underlying destination branding such as brand
personality (Ekinci and Hosany, 2006), image
(Cai, 2002), and elements (Blain et al., 2005),
there is still considerable confusion between
the denitions of each attribute and a lack of
consensus regarding how they collaborate to
form a true destination brand among academic
experts and industry leaders (Tasci and Kozak,
2006). However, academics do seem to agree
on the development process for destination
branding. Both the International Association of
Convention and Visitor Bureaus (Knapp and
Sherwin, 2005), and Morgan et al. (2003) have
proposed multistage methods for building a
destination brand. Both are strategic in nature
and are disciplined intellectual exercises that
involve visionary leadership. What these two
blueprints have in common is four distinct
stages: a need to assess the destinations current
situation, develop a brand identity and promise,
communicate that promise, and then measure
the brands effectiveness (see Figure 1).
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

Branding a Memorable Destination Experience


Step 1.

Step 2.

Step 3.

Step 4.

Assessing the
destination brands
current situation

Developing a brand
identity and brand

Communicating the
brand promise

effectiveness of the
brand building

Figure 1. Building the destination brand experience.

In recent years, there has been an acknowledgement that a successful destination brand
needs to convey the expectations, or promise,
of a memorable travel experience that is
distinctively associated with that destination
(Ritchie and Crouch, 2003; Blain et al., 2005;
Knapp and Sherwin, 2005). This experience
branding serves to consolidate and reinforce
the emotional connection between the visitor
and the destination, and reduce consumer
search costs and perceived risk, translating
into a unique selling proposition and a corresponding increase in tourist spending (Blain
et al., 2005). The next section uses the four-step
framework for building a destination brand to
examine how some destinations have successfully branded a memorable experience.
Assessing the destination brands
current situation
The rst stage in building a destination brand
is to establish the core values of the destination
and its brand. This stage should consider how
contemporary or relevant the brand is to
todays tourist and how it compares with key
competitors. An objective viewpoint including
the perspectives of visitors, and inuencers
such as meeting planners, destination marketing organizations (DMO) members, and tour
operators, is needed in order to capture an
independent situation analysis of the marketplace (Knapp and Sherwin, 2005). Before
Tourism New Zealand created its brand vision
for New Zealand in 1999, it initiated a series of
research projects that surveyed local businesses, regional economists, destinations with
similar visitors and previous visitors as well
as tourists who had never been to New
Zealand. This process was similar to exercises
conducted by brand developers of Wales,
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Western Australia, Switzerland and Hawaii

(Morgan et al., 2002).
The What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas
campaign provides an excellent example of the
importance of in-depth analysis and research
in building a destination brand. Previous to the
Sin City re-imaging, Las Vegas was sending
mixed and confusing messages to consumers,
as some of the properties had tried unsuccessfully to position themselves as family attractions, thus deviating from the core brand
attributes. With the extra blow to visitor
numbers provided by the fallout from 9/11,
marketers decided to recapture the original,
raunchy glamour of Vegas and the decadence
of the past.
The brand planning exercise that preceded
the What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas
campaign took three years. This involved
qualitative research to understand consumer
behaviour including observational research
and tag-alongs (following visitors around
from the moment they arrive until the moment
they leave). Researchers used projection techniques, such as asking consumers questions
like If Las Vegas was an animal what would
it be?; If Las Vegas was a person what type of
person would it be? (visitors often talked
about themselves). They used other innovative
research techniques, such as asking people to
write an obituary for Las Vegas. A sextant
system was then used to segment guests.
The sextant takes 40 000 people nationally,
examines their psyches and behaviour and
neatly classies them into 12 tribes, such as
Embittered Conservatives, Disaffected Escapists and Gilded Gamesmen. It attributes 13
glyphs symbols that convey attitude or
appearance such as trendy, shocking, irtatious and cool and hip to the tribes.
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

Researchers then looked for one message that
could resonate with the target tribes one
that had the Las Vegas brand personality;
exciting, sexy and safely dangerous.
Developing a brand identity and
brand promise
Once this market investigation is complete, the
next stage is to develop the brand identity.
Critical to the success of any destination brand
is the extent to which the destinations brand
personality interacts with the target market. A
brands personality has both a head and a
heart: its head is its logical features, whereas
its heart is its emotional benets and associations (Morgan et al., 2003). Brand propositions
and communications can be based around
either, although there is an increasing focus on
the latter. These emotional and functional attributes underlie the concept of brand promise,
in which destinations must communicate to
potential and current visitors the benets and
experiences that they can expect to receive
upon arrival (Knapp and Sherwin, 2005). This
meaningful distinction inspires condence in
travellers purchase decisions and represents
the most critical component of the brand.
Destinations have realized that the brand
promise needs to move beyond dening the
physical aspects of a destination, and create an
expectation of experience once the visitor
arrives. The Las Vegas promise is an exciting,
sexy and safely dangerous experience. The
promise of visiting Ireland is the intriguing and
engaging people, and the rich, colourful,
unspoiled, natural and cultural environment.
The locals are also at the centre of the Australian
brand promise, suggesting a welcome that will
be warm, distinctive and authentically Australian. Visitors to New Zealand are promised personal discovery, and more authentic, genuine
experiences than they are familiar with at home,
all with the backdrop of stunning landscapes.
Finally India promises a unique opportunity for
physical invigoration, mental rejuvenation,
cultural enrichment and spiritual elevation.
Communicating the brand promise
The third step, communication of the brand
promise, requires that the brands essence be
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

S. Hudson and J. R. B. Ritchie

communicated throughout various promotional campaigns, advertisements and message
types including the brands logo, byline,
tagline, story and name. Every execution in all
media contributes to maintaining brand presence. As suggested previously, there is an
increasing focus on the tourist experience, and
marketing messages based on experiences will
have a greater importance in travel decisions
in the future (Williams, 2006).
For the What Happens in Vegas, Stays in
Vegas campaign, Las Vegas developed a series
of innovative television advertisements which
do not dwell on the typical images of neon,
showgirls and gambling, but rather create an
updated concept of Vegas as the place to realize
your dreams, secret ambitions and fantasies
with no comeback. The sexually suggestive
and humorous series of advertisements,
appealing to both men and women and a
variety of age groups, were voted most likeable advertisements in 2004 by USA Today. The
Web site address was also provided at the end
of each ad to facilitate more information and
easy bookings.
In fact, the Internet is increasingly being
used as a platform to launch destination
brands. In 2002 the rst Incredible India
online campaign was launched, with the
communication objective to project India as a
unique opportunity for physical invigoration,
mental rejuvenation, cultural enrichment and
spiritual elevation. Over 100 different creatives were designed for the campaign across
12 themes, and innovations such as online contests were used to increase user interaction.
The campaign resulted in more than 13 million
hits to the Web site per month. Since then, the
site has been relaunched as www.incredibleindia.org with the new Web site designed to be
a showcase of all good things in India
colours, technology, vastness, diversity and
depth. By April 2005, the Web site was receiving more than 25 million page views per
Destination marketers are also using the
Internet to place advertisements that may or
may not be shown on television at a later date,
taking advantage of Internet users insatiable
appetite for online content. Even before its ofcial television debut the Where The Bloody
Hell Are You advertisements from Australia
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

Branding a Memorable Destination Experience

were viewed online by over 100 000 people in
the UK. A similar effect was achieved in the
Canadian market. The campaign was soon
viewed in nearly every country in the world
and generated record levels of worldwide
online trafc. A dedicated Web site was
created by Tourism Australia www.
wherethebloodyhellareyou.com whereby
consumers could log on, view the ad, send a
postcard or download specic pictures from
the advertisements. Despite only being
launched in ve countries, the uncut advertisement was downloaded by people in 80% of the
191 nations across the world.
One of the biggest trends affecting brand
advertising is the development of the integrated marketing communication approach;
the practice of unifying all marketing communication tools so they send a consistent, persuasive message promoting the brand. When
New Zealand branded the whole country as
Tolkiens Middle Earth, the government
invested up to US$18.6 million on projects to
promote New Zealand in the wake of The Lord
of the Rings trilogy. The Prime Minister, Helen
Clark, personally endorsed the branding of
New Zealand as the home of The Lord of the
Rings, acknowledging the opportunity to
showcase the country worldwide through lm.
She even appointed a The Lord of the Rings
Minister to assist in the process of leveraging
the trilogy. The promotional campaign, coco-ordinated by Investment New Zealand,
included a huge international media program
with numerous events leveraging off the three
lms, featuring, for example, food and wine.
Because it was a trilogy with a years gap
between each release, there was sufcient time
to organize appropriate promotions to coincide with each release and promote different
sectors of tourism. Tourist maps were produced listing 35 lming locations; the lms
were promoted on the tourist boards Web site;
and links to lm tours by local operators were
set up, including everything from half-day
tours to 22-day trips.
Measuring effectiveness
The nal stage of building a destination brand
is to evaluate the brands performance in the
marketplace. Measuring the effectiveness of a
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

destination brand is a critical role in the brand
development process (Ritchie and Ritchie,
1998; Blain et al., 2005). Measurement will
ensure that the brand personality is continually evolved and enriched in order to strengthen
its appeal and to broaden the market (Morgan
et al., 2003). Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the communications is the key here,
as are open-mindedness and a willingness to
embrace change on the part of the brand
managers. Destinations tend to retool their
messages more frequently than in the past.
Australias See Australia in a Different Light
was only a few years old before Tourism
Australia hired M&C Saatchi to come up with
something different that would resonate with
the target market. After conducting focus
groups for six months, what they found was
that people liked Australia not so much for
Australia, but for the Australians. The recommendation was to come up with a campaign
that would capture the real Australia and who
the people really are. The result was the Where
The Bloody Hell Are You? campaign that
proved so successful.
Any change must be managed with the
overall consistency of the brand. The secret is
to evolve continually and enrich the original
brand personality, building on the initial
strengths to increase their appeal and broaden
the market. The Incredible India campaign
has developed a number of themes such as
spirituality, festivals and wildlife. The 2005
2006 campaign was given a kitsch look and
was targeted at more afuent tourists who saw
the country as a destination suited to their
thirst for interests such as yoga, ayurveda,
spirituality and wildlife. The focus was on creating an unapologetic, condent and growing
India. Thus it combined spectacular images of
India with a wry, self-assured tone a far cry
from the bowing and scraping of the past
(Vats, 2007).
Monitoring tourism arrivals is one way of
measuring effectiveness. In 2003, Indias
tourism inow rose 15.3% mostly because of
the Incredible India branding campaign, with
foreign-exchange earnings through tourist
arrivals rising as much as 20%. Foreign
tourist arrivals increased a further 25% in
2004. The What Happens in Vegas Stays in
Vegas campaign resulted in visitor numbers
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

increasing from 35 million in 2000 to a recordbreaking 37 million by 2004. After branding
New Zealand as Middle Earth, international
visitor numbers rose 7% in 2002, compared to
a global rise of only 3%, and contrary to a
general expectation of falling numbers in the
wake of September 11. The Internet has also
been used to monitor campaign effectiveness.
In New Zealand, after the 2002 Academy
Awards and a series of advertisements
announcing New Zealand as Best Supporting
Country, the nations tourism Web site had
more than a billion hits. Marketers in Australia
were similarly delighted with the online
exposure its Where the Bloody Hell Are You
campaign received around the world.
But perhaps the most effective way of measuring a destination brands performance is to
track the performance of the brand rather than
individual campaigns (Wells et al., 2006). The
assumption with brand tracking is that with
fragmented media and an abundance of similar
high-quality products, it is more important to
track the brand because it reects the quality
of the consumers brand relationship. So
instead of focusing on attributes and claims
about a destination, this research identies
how consumers are involved with the brand
and whether they are more favourably disposed towards it than other brands. Marketers
in Las Vegas use this approach and are continually tracking the performance of the Las
Vegas brand. In a 2007 consumer survey, Las
Vegas was named as the number two brand in
the USA, behind Google. The fourth annual
Newsmaker Brands survey was conducted by
marketing rms Landor Associates and Penn
Schoen & Berland. It asked 2017 adult consumers to rank 92 of the biggest brand names on
their performance in 2006 and prospects in the
year ahead. Las Vegas was number ve on this
list two years previously.
A case study methodology (Yin, 1989) with a
multi-method approach (Brewer and Hunter,
1989) was used for this study. Case studies
offer depth and comprehensiveness for understanding a specic phenomenon, enabling
inductive and rich description. Case research
is specically welcome in new situations where
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

S. Hudson and J. R. B. Ritchie

little is known about the phenomenon and in
situations where current theories seem inadequate (Eisenhardt, 1989).
Used extensively in tourism research, case
studies demonstrate exibility not evident in
many alternative research modes (Jennings,
2001). They have the capability to take into
consideration the effect of numerous study foci
by encompassing several groups of individuals within the boundaries of the case (Stake,
For this study, primary data was collected
through interviews with tourism ofcials and
business owners. These tourism ofcials
included marketers from the Canadian Tourism
Commission (CTC), hotel and attraction
owners in Canada, and marketers from regional
tourism organizations like Travel Alberta.
Secondary data was also collected related to
the Brand Canada campaign, and content analysis was conducted on the promotional material that was designed to support the campaign.
This included the Brand Canada Toolkit, the
partner guidelines kit telling the story of Brand
Canada, and a document produced by the CTC
called Strategy Behind the Brand: Bringing the
Brand To Life 20072011.
In 2005 Canadas tourism industry was experiencing problems. In the previous decade,
tourists had been deterred by a number of
uncontrollable factors, including natural disasters, SARS, West Nile fever, and mad cow
disease. Stricter passport regulations and unfavourable exchange rates were also having a
negative impact on visits, particularly from the
USA. Canada was losing both visitors and
market share. The number of international
tourist visits to Canada fell to 18.6 million in
2005, a 2.2% decline over 2004, and the World
Tourism Organization listed Canada in 12th
place in terms of top tourist destinations, down
ve places in a decade.
Competition for overseas tourists was erce.
In 2005 for example, 180 destinations advertised their wares on UK television. Countries
like New Zealand that were communicating
a clear, consistent and compelling image to
consumers were overshadowing Canada as a
travel destination. For marketers at the CTC,
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
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Branding a Memorable Destination Experience

the body responsible for marketing Canada
overseas, the message was clear. Canadas
image was outdated and incomplete, reecting
only the beauty of the geography and the frontier life of the countrys past. What was missing
was an emotional connection that would
intrigue travellers and trigger the desire to
experience the uniqueness Canada has to
The tourism industry has been through
many hardships over the past few years, and
we are challenged by international competitors
who are out-spending us. Still there is tremendous potential for growth, said Michele McKenzie, President and CEO of the CTC. To
realize our potential, we had to nd a way to
dene Canadas vast and diverse country, with
one simple yet compelling brand promise
one that had universal appeal to translate
across the worlds many languages and
To assess the brands current situation,
research was conducted to examine domestic
and international perceptions about Canada.
The consultation process included 44 workshops and 18 focus groups held in 23 cities in
seven countries: Canada, the USA, the UK,
France, Germany, Japan and Mexico. Over
500 travel professionals were consulted, and
the ndings of these comprehensive studies
became the foundation for a new vision of
what it means to travel in Canada.
Through this research, the CTC discovered
that Canadas tourism performance in the
world was not where it needed to be. The
CTCs executive director of marketing for
Europe and Latin America, Sylvie Laeur, said
our research indicated that Canada is perceived as a rather unexciting destination where
there are relatively few things to do.
The research also found that many people
thought of Canada as a classic novel that one
should read, but never does. People had a very
positive view about the brand, but the perception of Canada was primarily nature based and
the public was unsure whether Canada would
be a rewarding and interesting vacation beyond
the sights, landscapes, beauty and the vast
The research revealed consumers perception of Canada to be largely one-dimensional
and based on nature and geographic assets.
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Canada was viewed as a safe, clean and beautiful country, but prospective visitors had difculty in envisioning themselves on vacation in
Canada and could not very well articulate
aspects of the Canadian travel experience
beyond the physical assets. The review of
research also revealed that Canada had been
communicating the same nature-based image
of the country for more than 40 years and that
the positioning of the brand was not clearly
It was decided therefore to change the brand
promise and Brand Canada was the name
given to the rebranding exercise. With a vastly
different landscape and increased competition,
we had to give people more reasons to travel
to Canada, said McKenzie. Our new path to
selling Canadian tourism had to be focused on
creating an emotional bond between Canada
and the rewards of travel by offering emotional
explanations of experiences, she said. Instead
of the common destination-branding approach,
Brand Canada has to evoke emotion, to inspire
travelers to create their own adventures.
Canada is a catalyst for self expression where
destinations turn into one of a kind experiences. The brand promise, simply put, was
Come to Canada: Create extra-ordinary stories of
your own.
The new brand identity was a progressive,
vibrant nation full of people, culture, colour,
nightlife, art, architecture, shopping, music,
culinary traditions, fashion and stunning
scenery and adventure. The brand promise
was a place worth exploring now; where
travellers could full their natural curiosity
to discover and explore and create their own
unique, one-of-a-kind experiences. Visitors
could expect to nd a progressive, welcoming
society. We needed a campaign that would
put us at top of mind for potential travelers,
said Paul LaRue, who was Communications
Advisor at the time for the CTC. People tend
to look at Canada and say, Yeah, nice place,
Ill think about it down the road. We need to
change that perception.
The positioning concept for Brand Canada
was researched through online surveys in 2005
amongst consumers in Canada, the USA,
England, Germany, France, Japan and Mexico.
Response to the positioning concept was overwhelmingly positive, and results of the research
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

were used to ne tune the brand positioning,
which was then used as the catalyst to create
the brands tagline and visual identity.
Brand Canada was ofcially launched in
January 2007 and was designed to refresh
Canadas image as a top-of-mind tourist
destination by promoting it as a destination to
be experienced as a whole rather than simply
for its picturesque scenery. Brand Canada will
position Canada as a must-see destination,
said McKenzie. Brand Canadas tag line,
Canada. Keep Exploring, was decided upon as
the message that industry partners and the
CTC would leverage in future tourism marketing initiatives. The tagline was designed to
reect an inherent impulse to explore, and
position Canada as a place worth exploring.
Carving an unconventional path to promoting
tourism, the creative was designed to bridge
the gap between consumers traditional perceptions of Canada as simply a place of beautiful geography and its emerging international
reputation as a progressive, welcoming
Gisle Danis, Executive Director of Brand
Integration at the CTC, played a major role in
bringing Brand Canada to life. The most
important departure from previous campaigns
was a shift from focusing on the physical attributes of Canada to presenting a much more
emotive idea of the consumers travel experience in Canada, she said. Gone were the
sweeping national geographic shots of Canadas great outdoors in favour of more intimate
portrayals of people enjoying the experience of
a Canadian vacation. Canadas natural assets
and its vibrant urban centres still gured
prominently in the new visual approach, but
the focus was now on the interaction between
the visitor, the geography and the culture that
combine to create great travel experiences.
Brand photography focused on capturing a
moment in time, illustrating unique Canadian
experiences through the eyes of the traveller
versus simply showing the beauty of the geography in isolation.
A new visual identity was developed to
create a consistent platform on which to present
this picture. The visual identity plays off the
worlds image of Canada as a place of unspoiled
natural wonders with a series of abstract hand
drawn patterns of waves, leaves, pebbles and
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

S. Hudson and J. R. B. Ritchie

pine needles, said Danis. Another key component of the visual identity was the use of journal
graphics a series of cross Canada adventures recorded as real journal entries with individual handwriting and sketches, adding a
highly personal dimension to communications.
Finally, the CTC rened the brand Canada logo
to reect a more simple and welcoming image
of the maple leaf. Along with the new image,
they incorporated the words Keep Exploring,
introducing an informal font that was more in
keeping with Canadas friendly character.
The new visual identity of the brand was
used to help leverage the various touch-points
with consumers and the trade across all
markets. From trade show booths to special
events and advertising, the visual identity was
used to create an ownable and recognizable
image for Brand Canada. To facilitate deployment of the new brand resources, the CTC
created a comprehensive partner guidelines kit
telling the story of Brand Canada. It gave
industry access to the colour palette and the
other elements of the brand so they could
explore the imagery, assess suitable applications, and adopt Brand Canada in their existing brand if it enhanced the value of their
products. The Brand Canada Tool Kit was
available online at CTCs extranet.
A renewed online presence was a critical
component of the Brand Canada communications. For example in France, the existing Web
site was enhanced in an effort to reach the
target market of 25 to 55 year olds and the
gay-traveller niche market. A quiz game was
developed to provide visitors with a sense of
exploration and curiosity for Canada, with
answers to trivia questions found by surng
the site to discover Canadas diverse nature
and popular culture. Future plans for site
content include screen savers and ash games,
Explore Canada vignettes, and downloadable
music from Canadian artists. The intention
was to maximize the number of visits and
subscriptions to the site in order to develop a
larger and more effective database. This is turn
enabled the CTC to send targeted and personalized communications to a greater segment of
the market.
Another innovative vehicle under the new
Brand Canada banner, developed in partnership with key industry partners that included
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

Branding a Memorable Destination Experience

Roger/Alliance Atlantis, SRC and Parks
Canada, was a new interactive tool called EQ
(Explorer Quotient). Launched in Spring 2006,
this online self-examination tool allows each
potential traveller an opportunity to discover
his or her individual explorer type. Once the
consumers type is determined, a host of experiences are presented to encourage travel to
Canada. The EQ tool provides an understanding of which explorer types will resonate best
in which markets, said McKenzie. This way
we can give clear advice about how to package
existing products to better appeal to those
The advertisements themselves were certainly a departure from the typical Canadian
icons. Previous photography had generally
shown Canadas beautiful landscape, often
vast with few people. The new photography
showed the actual experiences of the traveller
exploring and discovering Canada. Some of
the advertisements, like one featuring the
totem room at the Museum of Civilization in
Gatineau, Que., seemed to build on the accepted
view of Canada while encouraging exploration. Other advertisements, which ran in European gyms, highlighted the muscles used while
enjoying various Canadian attractions, such as
going to a comedy festival, visiting a spa, or
raiding a mini-bar. DDB Canada was the
advertising rm behind the new campaign.
DDB vice-president Yvonne van Dinther said
her rms challenge was to express the tourism
commissions message in an interesting way.
What we need is to insert the advertisements
into peoples routines, she said. We want to
give new information at the very least to get
people to think differently, to look at things in
a non-traditional way.
The tourism commission echoed that sentiment. Tourism marketing in Canada . . . has
been similar for 50 years. Basically the same
message Come to Canada, we have beautiful scenery and mountains, said LaRue. We
used that phrase in 1945, and again in 2003. So
were not hitting the people we need to hit. In
addition to Britain, France and Germany, the
new advertisements appeared in China, Japan,
South Korea, Australia, the USA and Mexico.
In Mexico, at key high-trafc locations and
selected major shopping malls, a large black
box or display was set up, playing on peoples
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

natural curiosity to discover and explore. A
single challenge was posed to the shoppers:
Try your hand. Those daring enough to do so
pulled out a branded Canada. Keep Exploring
postcard with contact information on travel to
Canada. The same month, prior to movie
theatre shows, an usher wearing a Keep Exploring T-shirt caught audience attention by peering
out through the curtains and announcing
something unexpected and out of the ordinary.
On leaving the theatre, movie goers were provided with a unique take-home piece to pique
their interest and drive them to the Web site.
In the UK, visitors to the Canada Dome at
Canary Wharf could engage in a fully interactive experience that used sensory overload to
bring potential UK visitors a sample of the
sights, sounds and tastes of Canada. The campaign used Bluetooth technology to ensure
local cellphone users received details of the
dome and associated competitions.
The new brand identity was promoted to
Canadian as well as international travellers.
On 1 July 2007, an interactive contest was
launched whereby Canadians could post
online what inspired them about Canada for
the chance to win an explore-the-country-byrail trip. In another initiative, the CTC engaged
poets to create verses celebrating Canada
our vibrant people, places and progressive
nature and these poets performed at
selected festivals over the summer in an
attempt to bring Canadas new tourism brands
visual identity to life. The CTC is always
looking for innovative and ground-breaking
ways to promote our new brand identity for
Canada said Greg Klassen, CTC Vice President of Marketing.
According to Klassen, it is too soon to assess
the impact of Brand Canada on nancial and
visitor numbers. Goals of the Brand Canada
campaign included creating a high awareness
of the Canada brand that was globally admired
and distinct, and to ultimately increase demand
for tourism to Canada. The long-term goal of
the CTC was to increase revenues from its 11
core markets by CDN$7.5 billion or close to
23% between 2005 and 2010. Brand Canada
was also intended to move Canada into the top
10 tourism destinations of choice in the United
Nation World Tourism Index (UNWTI).
Canada currently lies at number 13.
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr


S. Hudson and J. R. B. Ritchie

Initial research conducted by the CTC suggested that the tagline was well-understood.
Consumers interpreted the tagline as meaning
there are a variety of activities and experiences
available in Canada; I can experience new things
and become an explorer in Canada; and Canada
is a place for people who enjoy discovering things
for themselves. However, not all Canadians
were sold on the new campaign. Some people
were confused by the advertisements, saying
they did not represent the country Canadians
know and love. Some said it was difcult to
know the advertisements were even for
Canada. One of the original advertisements
that caused confusion showed a broken shopping mall kiddie ride complete with tire
tracks and the tag line, Were all born
explorers. But LaRue defended the new campaign. Were not giving up on our geography
and scenery, he said. What were doing is
taking a different slant. Were appealing to
peoples emotional side; to make them a little
more cognizant of their explorer nature, which
is inherent in any human being.
To assess and ne-tune the effectiveness of
Brand Canada, the CTC is measuring the
overall awareness and likeability of the brand
and the comprehension of the brand promise
globally. Key measurements are unaided
awareness of Canada as a travel destination

(top-of-mind), unaided awareness of travel

advertising for Canada, and unaided travel
destination consideration awareness of Canada.
Capture of intelligence is achieved through a
multi-country tracking program that monitors
key performance indicators, including brand
performance, and that examines Canadas
competitive positioning over time. Brand measurements for 2007 have already been collected,
and the results can be seen in Table 1. The CTC
sees the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as an opportunity to leverage brand awareness and accelerate the repositioning of Canada. At that time,
awareness will have reached a peak and so the
CTC will move away from brand building and
concentrate on marketing initiatives that are
more tactical.
The case study shows that Brand Canada is
certainly a departure from the countrys traditional marketing efforts and is reective of the
current trends to brand the experience rather
than the physical attributes of a destination.
Canadas marketers have focused on the tourist
experience, creating marketing messages based
on these experiences to appeal to the emotions
of potential travellers. The case study has also
shown that Brand Canada has adhered to the

Table 1. Measuring the Health of Brand Canada

All Markets
South Korea

awareness (%)

awareness (%)

Unaided destination
awareness (%)

Overall global
brand awareness
2007 (%)a





The 2007 global brand awareness measure for CTC core markets was derived by means of a cumulative weighted average
of the three brand awareness measures (the unaided travel advertising, destination and consideration awareness). The
respective brand awareness measures were weighted against the proportion of the total long-haul potential travel population in each of the nine markets. Accordingly, the markets with the larger potential travelling population carry more
weight in the overall measure.
Source: Canadian Tourism Commission 2008)

Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)

DOI: 10.1002/jtr

Branding a Memorable Destination Experience

destination-brand-building model presented
earlier. The brands current situation was
assessed following a strategy of extensive
research that examined domestic and international perceptions about Canada. A new brand
identity and promise was then developed
essentially saying Come to Canada: Create extraordinary stories of your own. This promise was
then communicated via an integrated campaign targeted at both domestic and international tourists supported by the tagline Keep
Exploring. Finally, plans were put in place to
measure the effectiveness of Brand Canada.
Was the Brand Campaign a good example of
experiential marketing? Williams (2006) has
argued that there are few examples of tourism
organizations using experiential marketing,
and even these are often poorly executed or the
concept is misunderstood. He even cites Brand
Canada as one such example, arguing that the
approach taken, and media used, by the CTC
were too traditional in nature. However, given
that experiential marketing is concerned with
creating an emotive connection to bring brands
to life, the authors of this paper believe that the
Brand Canada campaign is a good example of
experiential marketing in practice. According
to Williams, experiential marketing is about
taking the essence of a product and amplifying
it into a set of tangible, physical, interactive
experiences that reinforce the offer. The Canadian Tourism Commission appears to have
done this in a number of ways, including the
implementation of the Explorer Quotient interactive online tool, the employment of slam
poets, and interactive marketing initiatives in
Mexico and the UK. However, it seems to be
the new visual identity that has brought the
new brand to life. According to Schmitt (1999),
visual identity is an important ingredient for
communicating experiences, and Canadas
new visual identity has played a major role in
communicating the brand experience. Portrayals of people enjoying the experience of a
Canada vacation, photographs that captured a
moment in time, and journal graphics that
added a highly personal dimension to communications all these initiatives were a major
shift from the traditional approach of focusing
on the physical attributes of Canada.
Given the highly competitive nature
of tourism worldwide, perhaps the CTC is
Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

ambitious in its goal of moving Canada back
into the top 10 tourism destinations of choice.
In fact international visits have dropped year
on year for the last three years, and Canada has
slipped to 13th in the UNWTO rankings. Whilst
Mexico and the UK currently have the highest
weighted global brand awareness worldwide,
low awareness levels in the USA and Japan
should be of concern to the CTC. Also, high
awareness levels in China represent a lost
opportunity as Canada has yet to be granted
approved destination status by the Chinese
government, which would allow leisure travellers from China to travel to Canada using
a tourist exit visa a privilege currently
reserved for business travellers only.
As the competition between destinations
increases, destination branding is emerging as
one of the most powerful marketing weapons
available to contemporary marketers (Morgan
et al., 2002). Yet despite the increased attention
in the subject of destination branding over the
last few years, little published research in this
area provides pragmatic guides for destination-marketing organizations (Pike, 2005). This
paper suggests that destination brands need
to convey the promise of a memorable travel
experience that is distinctively associated with
that destination in order to be successful. A
four-step conceptual model for building a destination brand experience is presented, and the
case study on Brand Canada shows how marketers in Canada have adhered to this model,
using experiential marketing techniques to
communicate the new brand. Canadas new
visual identity has clearly played a major role
in communicating the brand experience, a
major shift from the traditional marketing
approach of focusing on the physical attributes
of Canada. But only time will tell whether or
not Brand Canada will achieve the goals of the
CTC and create a Canada brand that is globally
admired and distinct, one that ultimately
increases demand for tourism to Canada. Based
on the results from other destinations (like
India, New Zealand, Australia and Las Vegas)
that have followed such strategy of branding a
memorable destination experience, Brand
Canada is a move in the right direction.
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 217228 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr

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DOI: 10.1002/jtr