Home Marketing Marketing and American Consumer Culture: A Cultural Studies Analysis
Those who have not been exposed to Russian drinking do not appreciate how hard Russians drink but travelers to Russia, astonished by it, have remarked about it for centuries. In 1639, Adam Orleans, who represent the Duke of Hostein’s court in Moscow, observed that Russians “are more addicted to drunkenness than any other nation in the world. ” In 1839, the Marquis de Custine, a French nobleman, picked up the Russian aphorism that “drinking is the joy of Russia.” It still is, but this does not mean Russians are relaxed social imbibers. They know no moderation. Once the vodka bottle is uncorked, it must be finished.... Periodically, the press and political leadership inveigh against the national disaster ofalcoholism. High officials have disclosed that intoxication is the majorfactor in the majority ofcrimes (90 percent of murders), accounts for more than halfofall traffic accidents, is a major cause in 40 percent of all divorce cases, figures in 63 percent of all accidental drownings, one third ofall ambulance calls in Moscow.
Hedrick Smith, The Russians
It has been an automatic reflex for French writers to give their country human traits. She has an eternal soul. She is, says the textbook used in elementary schools, “the friendliest and most generous nation in the world.” Nourished by fable and myth, the reassuring catechism of a “clear and legible country” took root and became fixed in the self-indulgent notion of a providential shaping. Lyrical stanzas on the harmony of her contours are a set piece of French literature. “She is the only country in the world with has three distinct coastlines,” wrote Paul Valery, as ifthis were a magnificent achievement. Perfection in balanced variety is the Frenchman’s gift by birthright. It has existed ever since elephants drank in the Seine. Other countries made their geography epic:great land masses like the United States, with Frederick Jackson Turner’s hymn to the
© The Author(s) 2016
A.A. Berger, Marketing and American Consumer Culture, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47328-4_13
frontier, and Russia, with the mystique that its territory can never be conquered, but only France boasts a God given anatomy.
Sache de Gramont, The French
Abstract Countries market themselves because they wish to attract international tourists, who generally spend a good deal of money on food, lodging, transportation, and entertainment when they visit foreign countries.
International tourism is shown to be a $1,160 trillion-dollar industry in 2015 and growing. It is suggested that there are many ways in which people find out about tourism in foreign countries, such as guidebooks, articles in newspapers and travel magazines, material on the Internet, or films they see. Statistics are offered on the amount of money international visitors spent in the United States in January and on the number of jobs created by the tourism industry. A list of most popular countries for international tourists is offered and America is shown to be the second most popular destination for tourists, second only to France. This is followed by a list of the amount of money international tourists spend on their visits to foreign countries and America is shown to be third, after China and Germany. Brazil is offered as an example of the problems countries face in putting on spectacles like the Olympics that attract huge numbers of foreign visitors.
Keywords International tourism • Destinations • Brazil • Olympics
We may not think about it very much, but countries spend a great deal of effort and money marketing themselves, for a variety of reasons. One of the most important involves tourism. Tourists generally spend a good deal of money when they visit a foreign country—on everything from transportation to hotels and restaurants. Tourists also do a lot of shopping and purchase items that may be more expensive where they live. We learn something about countries when they are discussed in newspapers, when there are news events on television in other countries, when we read books about other countries or novels that take place in other countries, and when we watch movies and television shows that show us what countries are like and what visiting them would be like.
There are also many guidebooks that people consult when they are considering visiting a foreign country. These guidebooks offer information about everything from the weather to sites ofinterest in cities, and the best hotels, and restaurants. Consider this description of Japan in Simon Richmond and Jan Dodd’s The Rough Guide to Japan. The first two paragraphs in the book read as follows (2005 :iii):
For a country that lived in self-imposed isolation until 150 years ago, Japan has not hesitated in making up for lost time since the world came calling. Anyone who’s eaten sushi or used a Sony Walkman feels they know something about this slinky archipelago of some 6800 volcanic islands and yet, from the moment of arrival in this oddly familiar, quintessentially oriental land it’s almost as if you’ve touched down on another planet.
Japan is a place of ancient gods and customs, but it is also the cutting edge of cool modernity. High-speed trains whisk you from one end of the country to another with frightening punctuality. You can catch sight of a farmer tending his paddy field, then turn the corner and find yourself next to a neon-festooned electronic games parlour in the suburb of a sprawling metropolis. One day you could be picking through the fashions in the biggest department store on earth, the next relaxing in an outdoor hot- spring pool, watching cherry blossoms or snowflakes fall, depending on the season.
This guidebook attempts to give readers a sense of what Japan is like now and what they can expect when they visit the country. This description of Japan is meant to intrigue readers and inform them of the interesting experiences awaiting them in a visit to Japan. The book is full of descrip?tions of cities, famous sites of interest, along with material on food, hotels, customs, and that kind of thing. Before my wife and I visited Japan, we purchased two guides: one by Rough Guides and one by Lonely Planet, so we could compare the two and get some sense of where to go and what to do on our visit to Japan.
And so, from a variety of sources we create an image in our minds of what other countries are like—an image that is difficult to change once it has been formed. There is also an enormous amount of information on the Internet about various countries, everything from sites run by countries with tourist information to blogs written by people who have visited these countries. Cities often have websites where they provide information that tourists seek, about things do and places to go, restaurants, cultural events, and that kind of thing.
If you read Hedrick Smith’s huge volume, The Russians, you learn a great deal about Russian history, Russian culture, and everyday life in Russia. His discussion of Russian attitudes about vodka provides us with a sense of what Russian national character is like. The same can be said about de Gramont’s discussion of French culture and character. In earlier times, we learned about other countries from books written by travelers. Thus, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America provided readers with insights—still accurate, many would say—about American political culture and national character.
Let’s consider the United States. We may say, then, that there is overt and direct marketing, by organizations that are set up to “sell” the United States or regions, states or cities within the country, and there is what I would describe as indirect or accidental marketing, by travelers who write blogs about their visits to the United States or other countries, and by sites such as TripAdvisor, which has an enormous amount of information of interest to tourists considering trips anywhere.
One problem marketers for countries face happens when there is a disconnect between the information found in advertisements for a country and the behavior of the people in the country being advertised. Thus, France has a problem because tourists are sometimes treated poorly by shopkeepers, waiters, hoteliers, and others in France and people who have visited France remember this and tell their friends about it. This may be because France has so many tourists that many people in France get tired of dealing with them. So, while the French government can claim in its marketing that a hospitable France awaits tourists, those claims don’t mean much if visitors to France have had different experiences. What marketers trying to “sell” France to tourists must do is find a way to change the way the French treat foreign tourists, which is not easy to do.
Consider this email from the US Department of Commerce. It shows how important tourism revenues are to the American economy.
INTERNATIONAL VISITORS SPENT $18 BILLION VISITING THE UNITED STATES IN JANUARY 2016
Washington—The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration today released travel data for the United States in January 2016, which demonstrates that travel and tourism is still our nation’s number one services export. International visitors spent an estimated $18.3 billion on travel to, and tourism related activities within, the United States in January 2016. Educational and health-related tourism and shortterm worker expenditures accounted for $4 billion in January, an increase of more than 10 percent from January 2015. “Today’s data show that the United States remains a desirable destination for international travelers,” Selig [who is not identified] said. “The travel and tourism industry remains important to the nation’ s economy and to American workers, annually generating nearly $1.6 trillion of economic output that supports nearly 8.1 million U.S. jobs. The Commerce Department continues to introduce new initiatives like the recently launched 2016 U.S.-China Tourism Year to support President Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors by 2021.”
The United States happens to be one of the most important international tourism destinations. Wikipedia lists the ten most popular tourism countries and how many international tourists visit them. I have rounded off the numbers:
If the United States attracts 100 million international tourists by 2021, it will probably overtake France and become the number one tourism destination in the world, but China is ramping up its tourism marketing and some tourism scholars think it will become the leading tourism destination in a few years. China is expected to be the largest market for cruising in another decade.
China also leads the world in the amount of money that Chinese tourists spend. The following list shows how much money travelers from different countries spend on international tourism (in American Dollars):
This total shows the amount of money spent on international tourism by travelers from the top ten countries. When you add all the other countries, you come up with an enormous amount of money. Statista.com shows that there were more than one billion international tourist arrivals in 2015 and the size of the tourism industry was approximately $1,160 trillion. So countries are anxious to grab their share of the tourism pie and increase their share to the degree they can.
The point I would like to make is that all these countries are trying to lure international tourists to visit them and thus they all have marketing campaigns to achieve this goal. When I was planning to visit Spain a couple of years ago, I made an inquiry to a Spanish site and received countless emails, after that, about visiting Spain from the national tourism agency of Spain. Advertisements by countries focus upon images that people will find interesting and compelling.
If the images intrigue some readers, they might consider traveling in China. Quite likely, they would purchase a travel guide for China by
Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, or some other publishing house; or several travel guides, to get different opinions about sites of interest, cities to visit, and that kind of thing. These guides provide an enormous amount of information for travelers and function as a kind of unpaid advertising. People contemplating traveling to China can also find many Internet sites that deal with travel in China, tours to China, hotels in various cities in China, and related concerns.
Advertisements for countries are not restricted to those made by national tourist agencies. Travel agencies, cruise lines, and others often feature countries or important cities in countries. Thus, for example, Oceana Cruises, an upscale cruise line, included a thirty-six-page brochure in my New York Times recently whose cover featured an image of a woman in a beautiful costume with a large fan and information on a cruise to Japan. We have a subscription to the paper and frequently find brochures from various upscale cruise lines in it. A recent edition of Vacations, a travel magazine, focuses on “The Colors of Italy” on its cover but also has an article on “The British Isles” in it. So there are many ways in which countries are “sold” to tourists. In some cases, important cities or iconic sites are used to attract the attention of potential tourists.
In Philip Kotler’s (1987) article “Semiotics of Person and Nation Marketing,” published in Jean Umiker-Sebeok’s Marketing and Semiotics: New Directions in the Study of Signs for Sale, he writes (1987:3):
By marketing, I mean more than the activities of selling advertising. By marketing I mean an organization undertaking to harmonize an object or offer with a market in a way which produces satisfaction for both. This is accomplished not only by identifying natural markets for existing products but also modifying existing products so that they have greater appeal to potential markets. The goal of marketing is customer satisfaction through product-market harmonization.
In his article he points out how difficult it is for countries to market themselves because (1987:9) “many factors that are beyond its control affect the nation’s external image. Wars, political and economic developments, and scandals all contribute to our views of another country.”
As I write this, Brazil’s image is undergoing many changes. The most common tourism images, before Brazil’s recent troubles, were of beautiful women in scanty bikinis on sandy beaches and people partying during Carnival celebrations. These images implanted a vision of pleasure and beauty in people. Brazil invited people to “Feel the Warmth” in its advertisements. Beautiful images of a very photogenic Rio are often used in advertisements for travel to Brazil.
There were problems reported with Brazil’s preparation for the summer Olympics being held there in September of 2016; there was the danger from mosquitos that carry the terrible Zika virus and there was a political scandal involving the president of the country. Women athletes who were pregnant and or who wanted to have children were told to avoid competing in the Olympics and some athletes, both men and women, didn’t go to the Olympics because of the danger from the mosquitos and the Zika virus. And many of the construction projects were behind schedule. But, somehow, everything got done in time, there were no problems from terrorists, and the Olympics were a success. Brazil’s image as a travel destination was enhanced by the way it staged the Olympics and by all the spectacular images of Rio de Janeiro shown on television. They will be very good for tourism in Rio and in Brazil in the future.
Countries compete with one another for tourists who are in search of life-enhancing experiences, for adventures, and for various kinds of immersions in different cultures. What countries have to sell are their cultures and their histories—their great buildings, their fascinating cities, their museums, their cuisines, their historic sites, their sites of physical beauty, their sports arenas, their beaches, their mountains, their festivals, their people—one could go on endlessly. To attract tourists, countries advertise in travel magazines and other publications, on the Internet, and everywhere they believe they can find people who might be interested in visiting them. Countries spend a great deal of money marketing and advertising themselves because the payoff—the amount of money foreign tourists spend when visiting them—is so enormous.
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