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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 64 · No. 6 > Branding America's Byways

May/June 2001
Vol. 64 · No. 6

Branding America's Byways

by Sharon Hurt Davidson

"Like a Pointillist masterpiece, such as Georges Seurat's 'A Sunday on La Grand Jatte,' where every point of paint is controlled and focused toward creating a single image, your brand accumulates power and your customer relationships gain depth through the coordinated effort of your entire organization."

- Prophet Inc., Chicago, Ill.

Winding Scenic Road
The Needles Highway is a 14-mile (23-lilometer) section of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Highway winds through magnificent rock formations, called "needles." Peter Norbeck, conservationist, governor, and U.S. senator, loved the pristine beauty of the pineclad mountains with their dramatic granite pinnacles, and he chose the routes of the Iron Mountain Road and the Needles Highway on foot and horseback to ensure that the natural features would be preserved.

Branding products has become a critical business strategy in today's market. Brands differentiate a product, pre-sell a product, and "guarantee" the product.

Without a brand, bottles of brown liquid sit on the grocery store shelves. With a brand, bottles of Coca-Cola sell at a fast rate and at a premium price.

Without a brand, scenic byways are just so many designated miles of road. With a brand, America's Byways become "America's storyteller" - roads that connect us to the heart and soul of America.

The byway community asked the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) to take the lead in developing and building a brand for the collection of nationally designated roads. Attendees of the 1999 National Scenic Byways Conference articulated, through focus groups, that National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads needed an "umbrella" and an image under which they could be marketed as a collection.

The byway community was looking for a brand. It was clear to the byway representatives that a coordinated and organized national brand effort has a much stronger appeal than the appeal of an individual byway.

For the past year, FHWA has been researching, defining, and beginning to build a brand for the collection of roads that have been designated by the Secretary of Transportation as National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in recognition of their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. There are 72 such designated byways in 32 states.

Cars at Scenic View
Visitors get out of their vehicles for a closer look at some of the "needles" along the highway.

To be designated as a National Scenic Byway, a road must possess at least one of the six intrinsic qualities. The significance of the features that contribute to the distinctive characteristics of the corridor's intrinsic qualities must be recognized throughout the multistate region.

To receive an All-American Road designation, a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant and contain one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The road or highway must also be considered a "destination unto itself." That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip.

These designated roads are now called "America's Byways." An advertising agency was hired to work with a 17-member "marketing project group" that represented the byway community, including state departments of transportation, state scenic byway coordinators, byway leaders, marketing contacts, state tourism offices, federal land management agencies, FHWA, and the National Scenic Byways Resource Center.

Why are brands so important in today's market?

A brand is not a logo, symbol, ad, spokesperson, or jingle. A brand is everything that an organization wants people, especially their target markets, to feel and believe about its product and services. It is an asset that can be measured and leveraged. The America's Byways brand has been developed as an umbrella for the collection of nationally designated roads - the product. Everything we do reflects on the brand and has the ability to build it or compromise it.

In today's market, multiple products exist to serve similar purposes. People are looking for shortcuts in making decisions. Brands help them do this. Brands instill a distinct image, feeling, and value in the minds of consumers. With four coffeehouses on one block, why do people choose Starbucks? Why do people pay top dollar for Nike Air Jordans when Brand X shoes may be perfectly suitable for their needs and cost less? Because Starbucks is a known entity, and Nike makes them feel good. Successful brands create loyal customers.

America's Byways have a competitive advantage because the roads in the collection are designated as the "best" by the U.S. secretary of transportation. The essence of America's Byways is that they are not just miles of highway that someone somewhere has labeled "scenic"; it is the interpretation of each road that makes them America's storyteller. And this leads to the brand's positioning , which is the perception of the brand in the mind of the travelers. Byways need to become known as the means to connect with the heart and soul of America.

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is the most famous attraction along the 66-mile (106 kilometer) Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Almost 3 million visitors each year make the pilgrimage to view the memorial to presidents (from left) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Why is a brand important to America's Byways?

"Travel is part of the American psyche," according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

Not only is travel a part of the American psyche, but travel is also a part of the growing economy. Communities along the byways are looking to America's Byways as a tool to gain a bigger piece of the pie. The majority of the byway communities are located in rural areas. Obtaining national recognition and exposure provides an opportunity for both tax revenue and employment.

Americans spent $424 billion on travel away from home within the United States in 1998, and this spending generated additional indirect and induced sales of $565.3 billion. In addition, international visitors spent $71.1 billion in the United States, generating indirect and induced sales of $94.8 billion. Direct travel expenditures generated $77.1 billion in tax revenues for local, state, and federal governments. This 1998 figure is $14.9 billion higher than just three years ago, according to TIA. America's Byways are well positioned to tap into the travel market.

Byway communities will experience increased sales and tax revenue from their visitors, and this will lead to a growing local tourism economy to serve the visitors. Travel and tourism in the United States directly generated more than 7.5 million jobs in 1998, and 1 million of these jobs were generated by international tourism. An additional 9.4 million jobs were supported by indirect and induced sales, resulting in a total of 16.9 million jobs, according to TIA.

The Power of a Brand

While brands exist as objective entities, "brand equity" resides only in the minds of consumers and key influencers. The power of a brand is when it reaches brand equity - the ability to shift demand in the minds of consumers.

The brand equity formula is BE = SA + PQ + SD. That is, brand equity equals strategic awareness (the presence of the brand) plus perceived quality (the promise of the brand) plus singular distinction (the positioning of the brand).

Source: David A. Shore, Ph.D., Associate Dean and PricewaterhouseCoopers Director, Harvard University

How are America's Byways preparing to get a piece of the pie?

The marketing project group identified the following marketing goals going into the 12-month brand development process:

  • Build an over-arching brand for the designated roads.
  • Increase awareness.
  • Drive traffic.
  • Boost visitor spending.
  • Support individual states' tourism efforts to market nationally designated byways in their state.
  • Support the individual byway's efforts.
  • Foster local economic development.
  • Build understanding and support among all the constituencies.

The first step for FHWA and its partners was to work with the advertising agency

Coastline of Big Sur
The Big Sur Coast Highway, California Route 1 from Carmel to San Luis Obispo County line, follows 72 miles (116 kilometers) of the most spectacular shoreline along the Pacific Coast. Views include rugged canyons and steep cliffs, granite shorelines, sea lions and other marine life, windswept cypress trees, and majestic

to develop a strategic brand analysis. As much as we knew in our gut that scenic byways could play a critical role in fostering local economic development, it was necessary to define the product, its audience, and how to connect one with the other. The results of the analysis included a synthesis of our strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities; the threats facing the brand; the brand opportunities and limitations; branding tools; an advertising approach; brand architecture; and naming recommendations.

Successful brands touch people at a functional and psychological level. The brand chart was developed as part of the strategic brand analysis process with the marketing project group. (See table 1.) The brand chart helps us to order the relationship between these functional and psychological levels - the more cohesive and complementary the elements, the more potent the brand. The chart has two columns, one for the travelers and one for the industry stakeholders. The two different audiences interact with the brand in very different ways. The audiences intersect in attributes, personality, and essence, but diverge in benefits and values.

The America's Byways brand chart is one piece of the overall strategic brand analysis. The analysis was the first step in a process that included two phases of research to validate our conclusions: a benchmark national awareness study of the byways brand and positioning and testing through focus groups.

Sally Pearce, the scenic byways coordinator for the Colorado Department of Transportation (DOT) and a participant in the marketing project group, explained, "I especially liked the process in which FHWA pulled together a group of representatives from a wide variety of organizations, such as state DOTs, state Tourism, local byways, federal agencies, fun people, marketing specialists, etcetera. They walked us through a series of exercises aimed at getting down to the real heart of why we're all working with scenic byways. At times, there were tough questions to answer, and the process took quite a bit of time, but we really were able to come up with the brand essence of the program - America's storyteller. The brand gives us a sense of direction at the state level for not only our nationally designated byways but also the other state byways to help focus our efforts on the idea of telling our stories. In Colorado, the scenery is a given; it's the stories that make the byways special."

  For Byways' Travelers For Byways' Stakeholders

Attributes

  • Collection of diverse and eclectic places, each of which has its own story to tell.
  • Certified as "the best."
  • Unhomogenized, slower paced travel.
  • Collection of diverse and eclectic places, each of which has its own story to tell.
  • Certified as "the best."
  • Unhomogenized, slower paced travel.
Benefits
  • Surprises and delights.
  • Pre-screened and qualified.
  • Rediscovery and connections.
  • Marketing leverage.
  • Access to federal funds.
  • Validation.
Values
  • Patriotic.
  • Enriched.
  • Adventuresome.
  • Important.
  • Empowered.
  • Impassioned.
Personality
  • Ruggedly handsome, authentic, multifaceted, individualistic, popular.
  • Wise, supportive, connected, instructive, concerned for the environment, and a proponent of economic development.
Essence
  • America's storyteller.
  • America's storyteller.

What did the research tell us?

The benchmark national awareness study was conducted to measure current levels of byway awareness, interest in using byways, travel motivations, and the best option for naming and marketing the byway experience. Both a national telephone survey and a series of six focus groups in three cities were used to explore these issues. Some of the findings include:

  • Predictably, given limited marketing done in the past, awareness and familiarity with this program is relatively low. Currently, about a quarter of the traveling population (26 percent) claim awareness of the National Scenic Byways Program. Yet, only 2 percent say they are very familiar with the program, and 20 percent say they are somewhat familiar. This suggests that few people have a strong understanding of the program and the type of experience it offers.
  • The low level of familiarity was reinforced when respondents were asked about specific byways. Only the Blue Ridge Parkway and Route 66 earned more than 1 percent "top-of-mind awareness." Even when aided, only 14 percent indicated an awareness of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Other All-American Roads garnered from 3 percent to 13 percent in awareness. More marketing and communications will be necessary to educate potential travelers about National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads.
  • One of the most positive findings from the research is that there seems to be a large potential user base. The majority of people (76 percent) like to take the more interesting route, rather than the quickest. In addition, 57 percent are very likely to take a scenic or historic drive at their vacation destination, and 14 percent often take driving trips with no set destination. Overall, 14 percent of travelers are currently heavy users of scenic byways, and only 16 percent are non-users.
  • The largest group of users claimed a willingness to sample the byway experience at their destination. As such, one way to increase awareness of these routes is to promote them in key travel destinations, and then, use the opportunity to educate travelers to the range of options available. Cooperative efforts with key destinations along the routes, including the use of direct mail, could be effective.
  • Effectively marketing this program requires an understanding of what motivates travelers and what makes a vacation special. The most important features for travelers are relaxation, scenic beauty, and a variety of things to do. Yet, different people have specific preferences relative to their vacation experiences. An analysis of preferences identified six groups of visitors: outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, perpetual shoppers, variety seekers, classic relaxers, and children-oriented.
  • Two segments seem to be the best targets for this program - outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs. These two groups comprise 35 percent of the traveling population and, therefore, are a significant target audience. Their preferences are somewhat different. Consequently, the marketing efforts should be targeted specifically to each group.

Benefits of a Successful Brand

A successful brand-building strategy can lead to many benefits. A successful brand can be an organization's greatest asset. Because 70 percent of customers want to use a brand to guide their purchase decision, a successful brand may lead to very successful byways. Some benefits of a successful brand include:

  • Leveraging power.
  • Cooperative marketing/promotional ventures with desired partners.
  • Loyalty drives repeat business (repeat byway travelers).
  • Strong brands allow for greater shareholder and stakeholder return (economic impact on byway communities).
  • Brand-based price premiums allow for higher margins (packaging your byways experience).
  • Strong brands lend immediate credibility to new product introductions (new designations).
  • Strong brands embody a clear, valued, and sustainable point of differentiation relative to the competition. (Travelers will always choose America's Byways and not other packaged routes.)
  • The more loyal the customer base and the stronger the brand, the more likely customers will be to forgive the company in the event of a mistake. (A bad byway experience, such as many road construction delays during their travels, will be forgiven.)
  • Brand strength is a lever for attracting the best new byways.

Outdoor enthusiasts are generally young, and they like outdoor recreation, water activities, natural beauty, and adventure. They are interested in byways and the natural activities and opportunities they offer. This group will not only travel along byways, they will also want to stop and enjoy the activities and facilities along the way. This group is relatively active, and they get their information from television, the Internet, and magazines.

History buffs are the largest segment, comprising 20 percent of the traveling population. This group likes a variety of traveling experiences - especially scenic beauty, historic sites, museums, cultural activities, and educational experiences. This group tends to take fewer trips than the average traveler, but the trips are generally longer. This group likes scenic byways on the way, as the focus of the trip, or at their destination. This group is mostly older and includes a significant number of retirees and couples traveling without children. They look for travel information in magazines, newspapers, brochures, and billboards. This group is probably the traditional audience for America's Byways.

One of the goals of this research was to identify a name to use in promoting the nationally designated byways. The goal was to have an umbrella identification to promote both All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways. A number of options were considered including America's Best Byways, America's Honored Byways, National Heritage Byways, and others. The name that seems to be the best option is America's Byways.

This name generates positive images among consumers and can be used to develop the desired imagery of the program. "America's" connotes the heritage and history of the country as well as the scenery and beauty. "Byways" denotes a route that is off the beaten path - one that will offer a more leisurely, relaxed pace. This name is generic enough that it can apply to the wide range of routes that are part of the program.

The best marketing concept to promote the byways is: "Before there were interstates, there was America. It's still there." This concept clearly suggests to consumers that they should leave the interstates and experience a different type of trip/travel. Consumers indicated that the idea of finding America was appealing and generated a host of positive imagery. They could imagine themselves getting off the beaten path and finding unusual and even unique sights, sounds, and experiences. This concept resonates with consumers and yet will allow the development of a clear and differentiated brand.

Other research involved the beginning of more conclusive research regarding the byway visitor profile. The methodology was the prizm cluster or "geodemographic" analysis of those people requesting maps through FHWA's scenic byways Web site and the toll-free telephone number.

A prizm cluster analysis is a lifestyle-based segmentation system first developed by Claritas, a marketing research firm in Arlington, Va. The analysis involves the use of zip codes to deduce similar habits and characteristics of a group of people, including lifestyle, purchasing preferences, and media consumption. The basic premise behind this methodology is that "birds of a feather flock together."

Prizm classifies neighborhoods through dozens of surveys and demographic data, such as U.S. census data, demographics on new-car buyers from R.L. Polk, television-viewing habits from A.C. Nielsen, and consumer buying patterns from Mediamark Research and Simmons Market Research Bureau. The results of the prizm cluster analyses show that the group of people who request maps is fairly homogenous and prosperous. Some of the characteristics of this group include:

  • They are 45 to 64 years old.
  • They have a household income of $60,000 to $70,000.
  • They go online with ease.
  • They are fitness-oriented and travel extensively, including visiting foreign countries.
  • They shop at quality stores, such as Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and Eddie Bauer.
  • They buy new high-end performance cars.
  • They enjoy fine spirits and wines.
  • They also enjoy their homes (including tackling remodeling projects) and working in their yards.
  • On TV, they watch sports; late night shows (e.g., Leno, Letterman, O'Brien); long-term hits (e.g., Frasier, Friends); and higher end news programming.
  • They listen to news, talk, classical music, and contemporary music on the radio.
  • They read business weeklies and high-end dailies, such as the Wall Street Journal.
  • Their magazines include travel, culinary, shelter, sports, and computing titles.

While this information is helpful for strategic planning to identify potential byways travelers, it still does not give us a quantitative look at who is actually traveling the byways. This research has yet to be conducted.

In the End

After many months of meetings, conference calls, e-mail, and telephone conversations, FHWA's National Scenic Byways Program and the byway community have developed a brand for the collection of nationally designated roads. Based on research and consumer confirmation, the collection is now called America's Byways. Some key decisions and products from the process include:

  • "America's Byways" is the umbrella name to promote the collection of All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways.
  • The comprehensive brand-building strategy (marketing plan) for America's Byways.
  • The best marketing concept to promote the byways is "Before there were interstates, there was America. It's still there."
  • The America's Byways tagline should create a customer-focused statement that holds a promise and extends an invitation.
  • The new America's Byways logo.

One of the most time-consuming and challenging parts of the process included the development of a new logo representing America's Byways. The logo is a critical piece of the overall brand. Leveraging the power of the "America's Byways" brand includes maintaining its identity through clear and consistent messages.

One of the challenges was attempting to create a logo that meant everything to everyone and every road. However, just as the differences among America's Byways are one of its greatest strengths, it proved to be one of the group's greatest pitfalls. It just was not possible (or logical). Therefore, the marketing project group stepped back and set some priorities and criteria. The logo should:

  • Identify/designate/distinguish that America's Byways are special.
  • Invite travelers.
  • Convey "American."

On Oct. 27, 2000, FHWA posted the new America's Byways logo on the Web site for the byways community to view and make comments. FHWA created four versions to accommodate various applications. Also, the logo was sent to the state coordinators, byway leaders, and marketing contacts via e-mail.

FHWA received an overwhelmingly positive response to the new design. For example, Dave Fasser, New York scenic byways coordinator, said, "The logo exceeded my expectations." Dennis Cadd, the coordinator for California, described the logo as "being right on target."

"The new logo is building recognition for the entire national program and for the Meeting of the Great Rivers Byway," said Doug Arnold, marketing contact for the byway and a member of the marketing project group. "It differentiates us from many other 'scenic routes' and validates us as a bona fide national treasure. Is it important to us? Consider that the state of Illinois now devotes a distinct chapter on America's Byways in their new visitors guide, and all communities along the five Illinois byways are distinguished with the new logo as a highlight feature."

Internet Resources on Branding

BrandKnowledge

www.brandknowledge.com

BrandKnowledge provides a discussion of historical changes in marketing and branding with news, links, chatroom, and member services.

ClickZ Network

www.clickz.com

ClickZ Network is an online publication with an extensive archive of articles on various branding information.

Prophet

http://prophet.com

Prophet is a consulting firm providing brand-leadership, brand-driven growth, and e-business services. Online white papers and several other sources listed.

The Brand Report Newsletter

http://ashtonadams.com

What's Next: Building the Brand

Each All-American Road and National Scenic Byway has an investment and direct interest in the America's Byways brand. FHWA believes each national designated byway should take every opportunity to participate and share in its movement toward traveler recognition and loyalty. FHWA is committed to working with America's Byways to build and manage a successful brand identity.

Brand-building includes every implementation of the brand. It is not just focusing on the brand image, but knowing the role of the brand in driving choice. It is not just about advertising, but consistently managing the brand at all interactions with the customer. It is about not only communicating with customers, but also ensuring that the brand influences customers, byway representatives, byway businesses, and public officials. Building a brand affects every aspect of the byway, including the corridor management plan and the investment strategy. Total integration is the key.

While we continue to build the America's Byways brand, FHWA will also be continuing to build the collection of America's Byways. Nominations for another round of national designations will be accepted by FHWA in the winter of 2002, and the designations will be announced in summer 2002.

The designation event in 2002 will provide an important opportunity to kick-off the brand. Marketing the collection, however, is only one piece of the brand-customer relationship. Marketing puts a face on the brand, making a set of promises. It is up to each one of America's Byways and everyone involved to keep the brand promise through every contact with customers, creating a positive brand-customer relationship. Our relationship with the byway traveler as a result of their byway experiences is the true test of a successful America's Byways brand.


Sharon Hurt Davidson is the marketing manager for FHWA's National Scenic Byways Program. Her responsibilities include all brand management, marketing, promotion, and public relations activities for the program. Additional activities include providing technical assistance to a number of states regarding a $25 million annual grant program. She was formerly the program manager at the West Virginia Division of Tourism where she developed the state's scenic byways program. Prior to that, she worked on community-based economic development strategies as part of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation initiative. She has taught courses on women's studies at West Virginia University and served on the faculty at the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. She is a graduate of West Virginia University with a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in liberal studies. She has participated in Kellogg International Leadership Program activities and the Ms. Institute for Women and Economic Development, and she has been a speaker at numerous conferences and seminars.

For more information on America's Byways and the National Scenic Byways Program, visit the Web site at www.byways.org or call 1-800-4BYWAYS.

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