Brand USA: 5 Questions With Chief Strategy Officer Anne Madison

Brand USA is the government-funded body that markets America overseas, to tourists and businesses alike and just launched a new interactive inbound tourism campaign, “See How Far You Can Go,” to highlight the nation’s diversity and extend an open invitation to come and visit.

Launching in eleven markets worldwide, the goal of bolstering inbound tourism to the U.S. is timely given the questions regarding America by travelers and the travel industry alike these days.

“As storytellers we want to provide prospective travelers with the most compelling content that not only inspires them to visit, but also motivates them to plan a trip,” stated Christopher L. Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA. “Our new campaign meets travelers where they are and challenges them to see how far they can go on their USA experience.”

Brand USA has its own challenges, which started before tighter vetting of visitors began. “The main challenge the USA has had in many international markets over the past year is the strengthening of the U.S. dollar which started in 2015, long before the new administration took place,” Anne Madison, Chief Strategy and Communications Officer for Brand USA, commented.

“Brand USA is committed to communicating travel policy as an important component of inviting, welcoming, and thanking international travelers who visit the United States of America,” she added. “As of today, we believe our core campaign strategy—which emphasizes possibility and the value inherent in visiting the USA—remains as relevant as ever.”

In one recent example, Brand USA hosted a “Driving Golf Tourism to the USA” webinar on Valentine’s Day with Devon Down, Brand USA’s Manager of Global Market Development.

The “See How Far You Can Go” digital campaign is advancing Brand USA’s broader mission by using a digital and social media approach that focuses on able and relatable imagery and video content with a first-person point of view to inspire others to their perspectives and experience. In addition to online videos, interactive quizzes and engaging imagery, it includes out-of-home signage, high impact online display ads and social media posts.

Music will also play a significant role in the new campaign, with music tracks “tailored to individual personas and reflective of sounds distinct to the USA.” The campaign, which will run across Facebook, Instagram and various digital channels, will help potential travelers discover the variety of experiences, hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations and neighborhoods throughout the USA.

Madison d more insights on marketing America as a destination in our latest QA:

brandchannel: Brand USA is a public-private partnership that aims to boost tourism as an important source of revenue and to advance a vital economic sector and create jobs— while promoting amazing travel experiences in local communities. How does this new campaign advance that mission?

Anne Madison (right): As one of the best levers for driving economic growth, international travel to the United States currently supports 1.8 million U.S. jobs (directly and indirectly) and benefits virtually every sector of the economy. Since 2011, we have worked in close partnership with more than 700 organizations and expanded our marketing reach to nearly 40 international markets to invite people all over the world to explore the virtually limitless travel experiences and destinations available in the United States of America.

Now in our fifth full year of operations, we’re delivering on our promise to fuel the nation’s economy by inspiring the world to visit the USA. In other words, it’s working. In fact, according to studies by Oxford Economics, over the past three years Brand USA’s marketing initiatives have helped bring more than 3 million incremental visitors to the USA, benefitting the U.S. economy with more than $21 billion in total economic impact; nearly $3 billion in federal, state and local taxes; and supporting, on average, 50,000 incremental jobs per year.

bc: The new campaign highlights America’s geographic diversity. What is the USA story that your organization is telling with this campaign, and which markets (and what type of consumer) are you targeting?

Madison: We are excited about the rollout of our new interactive consumer campaign in 11 international markets including: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and UK. Brand USA also produced 15 versions of a new website,, in eight different languages, with each international market having a customized version in the home country language.

The accompanying campaign’s approach puts each person at the center of their trip—allowing them to immerse themselves in their USA experience—see the variety of destinations that are available in the United States, and the value inherent in the proximity of those points of interest. For example, within a five-hour drive of every gateway, there are a great number of diverse experiences and destinations along with itineraries that will appeal to every trip motivation—whether the traveler is looking for a high-energy getaway or a relaxing vacation. That’s something very unique and appealing about the USA.

bc: What metrics do you look at to track the ROI of a campaign such as this?

Madison: We use the independent economic analysis firm, Oxford Economics, to measure the return on investment of our marketing. According to their analysis between 2013 and 2015, Brand USA’s marketing efforts have generated, on average, 1 million incremental international visitors a year and supported 50,000 incremental jobs a year. For 2015, our ROI was 20:1. Our results for 2016 will be reported by May 1.

bc: The campaign comes at a time when there’s some confusion and even trepidation about visiting the US. How are you reassuring travelers and educating foreigners about the changes impacting visitors?

Madison: What makes the United States the attractive destination it has always been hasn’t changed. The reasons people want to visit the USA remain the same today as they have always been: our destinations, our experiences, and our people.

Brand USA believes communicating travel policy is an important component of inviting, welcoming, and thanking international travelers who visit the United States. Our ability to reach and influence international traveler decisions to visit the USA is especially important when traveler uncertainty or misperceptions exist.

When security, health, or political matters affect international travelers, our role as the nation’s destination marketing organization is to communicate those travel policies and processes in a welcoming and inspiring way that best reflects the range of diverse destinations and nearly limitless travel experiences available in the United States. We believe the combination of our marketing efforts and all that the USA has to offer travelers will continue to inspire travelers to visit the USA.

bc: Has intent to travel (for personal recreation or for professional meetings and conventions) to the US changed since the first executive order was issued?

Madison: The United States remains one of the most visited international destinations in the world. But we also have the challenge of more and better resourced competition (international destinations with very large tourism budgets, a stronger U.S. dollar, and a tougher global economy). And that’s why it’s more important than ever to market the USA like never before.

For global travelers, the mix of barriers and motivators is often in flux. For this reason, we are continuously in the field measuring consumer sentiment and commercial booking behavior. Current events in the world and in specific markets are sometimes a factor, but our research shows that currently intent to the visit the USA remains steady.

Get more branding insights in our QA series. Suggest a QA by emailing [email protected].