Mexico Rebrands Itself As ‘More than Margaritas and Mariachis’

Here’s a basic fact: Mexico is America’s number one tourist destination (and its formal name is The United Mexican States). At the same time, the country’s tourism board believes that many Americans don’t see the whole picture when it comes to our southern neighbor. In short, Mexico isn’t just about stereotypical Spring Break trips to Cancun and the requisite tanning sessions and tequila shots.

The country’s representatives want to change all that with an extensive rebranding campaign designed to focus on the more exclusive and luxurious elements of the Mexican tourism experience with the tagline “Mexico: the place you thought you knew.”

The campaign and tagline aren’t new, but we recently had the opportunity to speak to Gerado Llanes, CMO of the Mexico Tourism Board, about the latest elements of this countrywide shift in marketing and public relations strategies.

What is the primary goal of this campaign?

We want to convey the fact that Mexico is a lot more than beaches, margaritas and mariachis. Of course we are a spring break destination, but we want to more aggressively push the message about our luxury offerings.

For example: if you put all the hotels in North and South America together, you still wouldn’t have as many five-diamond locations as Mexico. We also have three of the world’s top 100 golf courses and the number one and two ranked spas in the world. Mexico also has many four-star restaurants that some people may not know about.

From business standpoint, we want to increase the average US spend in Mexico. We’re aiming for high-level consumers by saying “look and see what Mexico has to offer.”

How have you changed your marketing and PR strategies?

Luxury consumers have a very different way of consuming media, so we’re changing our media mix in order to “fish where the fish are”. We are scheduling events with companies like Forbes, Elite Traveler and the South by Southwest Festival to better reach the $5 million-and-up set–advertising in private jet magazines and that sort of thing. Of course with that mix the message changes as well, because we can’t sell the same way to Mrs. Jones in Iowa who wants to go to Tijuana for spring break.

For example, we threw a party at SXSW for the Forbes “30 Under 30” issue to link ourselves to a high-level event that high-level people (like Shaquille O’Neal) want to attend.

Could you list some more specific efforts?

On the golf front, we are collaborating with The Golf Channel on a reality show called The Big Break and working with Greg Norman, who has designed lots of courses down here. From a cultural perspective we have created the Cabo San Lucas Film Festival; lots of Hollywood names are involved.

Have you changed your social media strategy as well?

We’ve been much more aggressive. In early 2012, our Facebook page only had 10,000 likes and now we have more than 600,000. We got there by organizing events, publicizing sweepstakes and maintaining contact with fans who contribute user-generated content. Right now we’re sponsoring a “tell us your best story/send us your best pictures” sweepstakes where consumers can win trips, iPads, etc. Most of our social content is UGC.

Has the campaign succeeded so far?

Yes. In general we are having a great year; in the last quarter we saw a 7% increase in American travelers and the average spend went up 12%. The “fly and flop” thing where you come to Mexico to lie on the beach for a week is over. Even if you go to Cancun there’s so much more, and people are realizing that the quality of the services you get for the price is very powerful.

What do we think? Have you noticed this campaign? And has it changed your impression of Mexico? Here’s an older ad focusing on the more exotic aspects of the Mexican tourist experience:

*Photo via Adweek