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Benjamin Spillman

Survey: Google, Las Vegas top brands

11 January 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- If you've ever Googled Las Vegas, you're not alone.

The Internet search engine and the desert destination were America's top two brand names in 2006 and should repeat in 2007, according to a national survey.

The survey is a snapshot of Americans' perceptions of more than 300 names, places and brands researchers plucked from 2006 news reports.

Las Vegas was the only location in the top 10. The next closest place in the 2006 ranking was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at 32.

"What I think this list is measuring is: Is there a level of sexiness, a level of exciting possibility," said Bradley Honan, vice president of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, one of the firms that conducted the survey.

"There is something about optimism we pick up here."

Other top 2006 performers after Google and Las Vegas were iPod, YouTube and eBay. Rounding out the top five for the 2007 projections were the NFL, Sony and Amazon.

Ironically, the worst performing names on the list also carry an association with lewd behavior.

Respondents picked partying heiress Paris Hilton, her skinny sidekick Nicole Richie and panty-less pop star Britney Spears as their top projected losers for this year.

"People don't particularly like them, they are not excited about them," Honan said of the low-performing identities.

The marketing firm and Landor, a brand consulting company based in New York City, based their lists on responses from 2,017 people. The margin of error was 2.2 percent.

Respondents gave their perspective on how the subjects performed in 2006 then predicted how they would be received by the public in 2007.

In a similar survey conducted in 2005 Las Vegas was fifth in the winners ranking and was projected to rise to fourth in 2006.

But the Las Vegas name performed above those high expectations.

Kathy Latour, an assistant professor of hospitality and marketing at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, credited marketing that encourages people to project whatever image they like onto the Las Vegas name.

"When people think of Las Vegas, they have all these associations of what that means," Latour said.

She specifically cited the success of the "What Happens Here, Stays Here" marketing campaign by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association.

"It really taps into the whole escapism aspect of Las Vegas, Sin City, the decadence, the fantasy," Latour said.

Terry Jicinsky, vice president of marketing for the convention and visitors authority, said tourism promoters hope to broaden the brand's appeal.

Jicinsky said Las Vegas elicits a positive emotional response from consumers in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Mexico.

"After those countries, I think it falls off rather quickly," he said.

The goal for the authority is to maintain the goodwill in North America and the United Kingdom and build more recognition in emerging markets like China and India.

Building recognition in those countries will require a marketing strategy that educates consumers about Las Vegas before moving onto the emotional appeals used with domestic travelers.

"There is no illusion the 'What Happens Here, Stays Here' campaign will be the worldwide campaign," Jicinsky said.