Brand USA will send a group of influencers on a journey of discovery around the country this year. James Chapple speaks to marketing boss Tracy Lanza about the campaign.
Brand USA is confident its new United Stories campaign has the power to unify its marketing strategies – and create a self-sustaining network of authentic advocates for the US.
The destination marketing organisation teamed up with six high-profile influencers to launch the campaign last week in Belle Fourche, South Dakota – the geographic centre of the US.
Two vehicles – a Volkswagen camper and a classic Chevy Impala – will hit the road for a year hosting a rolling roster of content creators, storytellers and influencers whose objective will be to capture the stories behind the US’s places and people.
Content will be shared across social media using the #UnitedStories hashtag and tailored to specific international markets.
Tracy Lanza (pictured below), vice-president, integrated marketing at Brand USA, told TTG the organisation’s partnership with social media content expert Beautiful Destinations would allow it to produce material at the pace of consumption.
“Our aim is not to present a single corporate message,” said Lanza. “The days of broadcasting ‘at’ people are over. We have to engage in dialogue [on social media].
“There are four main voices we want to engage with: locals, travellers, industry experts and creatives. Everyone has a unique take on what makes America great. These are the stories we want to tell.”
Lanza said that as United Stories establishes itself, her hope is for the campaign to create a “community of storytellers”.
“These people don’t have to be professionals,” she said. “UGC [user-generated content] can be very compelling. We will create a lot of content, but we want to amplify the stories being told to us.
“There’s nothing better than having someone getting the idea and running with it. It feels real. Not everything has to be aspirational.
"I envisage a time it when becomes a self-sustaining initiative.”
United Stories will capitalise on the US’s reputation as the ultimate road-trip destination. One of the cars will head west, the other south or east. Likely destinations include Arizona, California, New England and the US east coast, where Lanza said her own “United Story” was set.
“My degree’s in dramatic literature, so I’d like to chart the Whale Trail from Massachusetts to New York as described in Moby Dick,” she said.
Among Lanza’s ambitions for United Stories is to tie it in with Brand USA’s Ask A Local and Hear The Music, Experience The USA campaigns. The latter, which launched last year, looked for five artists to reimagine Bobby Freeman classic Do You Wanna Dance? using the sounds of their city.
This year, Brand USA will work with 10 artists, and Lanza said she hoped to take United Stories somewhere such as Mississippi to link up with one of the artists on their home turf.
Skeleton itineraries will be available from a new Brand USA trade website, which will be rolled out over the next six months hosting some United Stories that creative agents can tailor to use on social media.
“The trade will be able to work with tour operators to create product that fleshes out these itineraries,” said Lanza, adding she hoped agents would interact with the hashtag to encourage clients to consider the US.
Other objectives include live broadcasting and potentially taking in major festivals such as Coachella or San Diego’s Comic-Con.
“We want to reach out to our audience and say, ‘Where would you like us to go and what would you like us to do?’,” added Lanza.
“We’ve always known these stories were out there. So #UnitedStories is a wonderful aggregator. We hope it becomes a choir of voices across the US.”