North Dakota’s Legendary Ad

Oh North Dakota, why?

I considered not writing this story.

After all, do we really need to pile on?

And while I won’t add any more jokes to this mistake of the moment, in the end, this story highlights my philosophy on destination branding and marketing.

For those of you catching up, here is a muted recap: Visit North Dakota launched a new ad campaign.

One of the ads was:

  1. Called inappropriate due to the ad copy.
  2. An instant internet meme / easy to make fun of.
  3. A textbook example of trying to be something you are not.

And now, in classic knee-jerk fashion, Facebook photos have been removed, PR-heavy wall posts issued and the masses what to know more.

Quick reminder, you do have a Social Media Crisis plan, right?  Right?

The real issue here is not the ad copy, which, in all honesty, is not that racy, insulting or inappropriate.  Silly, sure, but we have all seen much worse.  No, the real issue, and a reason why many people have commented on this campaign, is the positioning of the ad.

Positioning which attempted to show off North Dakota, and Fargo, as something it is not.

Specifically a destination with vibrant nightlife.

Seems to me, someone already talked about this.  And told you to stop it.

Yet here we are.  A poor ad, touting a weak tourism asset and now collecting the social media equivalent of calling bullshit.

Frankly, the ad deserved it.

In this brave new world of sharing, social and instant feedback, hiding the weak points of your destination through overly generous ad creative will not be tolerated.

Focus on your strengths and don’t pretend to be something you are not.

Because sooner or later, someone is going to call bullshit.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.