Je t'aime Paris: How Paris reinforced their brand image

Following the terrorist attacks of 2015, the Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau had to add to its usual B2B marketing focus with communications to reassure the consumer audience. Alice Rampelberg, Marketing B2C and E-Commerce Director at the Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau, explained how Paris have reinforced their global tourism brand as well as how collaboration with London is opening the door to more American tourists.

Why do you think it’s important to have a conference that brings together place branding practitioners from across the world to discuss the biggest challenges and emerging opportunities for cities, regions and nations working on their place brand strategy?

I think this kind of conference is a great way to interact with other destinations and to learn how to work better with our brand based on each other's experiences. Moreover, we are all now part of the same tourist ecosystem; working in the global interest of regulating tourism seems to me to be fundamental.

How has your organisation or team’s role changed over the last five years? And what major trend or issue do you predict will impact on your strategy in the coming years? 

Paris had never communicated to a B2C audience in the past. As a major tourist destination, it did not have to invest in marketing campaigns until the 2015 attacks. We then started campaigns to reassure visitors and give them reasons to come and visit the city during 2016 and 2017. The role of our team therefore became major in the organisation, as we had moved from a communication mission to a promotional mission, with ambitious objectives to be fulfilled. The team has worked well and met its objectives over the past 4 years. Tourism is doing very well and even reached a record level in Paris last year! We are very happy about that! For the coming years, our role will be more to rationalize tourism to ensure that it continues to grow in a context that respects the local environment, rather than seeking to attract visitors at all costs. In this environment, digital has also become a major issue and our teams have successfully improved their skills to ensure innovation in this field.


Effective place branding has always required a long-term view – and increasingly place brand strategies are aiming for more “sustainable” tourism and economic development. How do you define “sustainability” in place branding?

We are fully committed to a long-term development approach. The city has made some major improvements on sustainability, and we are very committed to promoting these changes. We also gather hospitality sector through a sustainable chart. Finally, the perspective of the 2024 Olympic Games, which will take place in Paris, leads us to look forward to five years from now. Today we are working on the conditions for hosting this major event, and we are helping to make it an example of a sustainable approach. We hope that the 2024 Olympic Games will help to promote the different facets of the city, the various districts and their incredible hospitality.


Authenticity is perhaps one of the biggest buzzwords in place branding – what do you think is the key to creating an authentic place brand?

Creating an authentic place brand requires the use of a direct tone, less institutional, and closer to visitors. Visitors today are more looking for human relations and advice from relatives. Our mission, as an institution, is to promote the destination and make it as accessible as possible to visitors, in response to their expectations. It is up to us to know how to listen to them and adapt our speech to what they want to discover. We address specific and varied targets and look for their tastes and expectations to communicate with them in a relevant way, to bring them the answers to their questions. This requires knowing your visitors well and finding the right channels to interact with them. For example, we know that millennials are looking more for less traditional visits and want to discover the city "like a local", sharing authentic experiences with real people. We are therefore working to expand our catalogue of partners and products to offer activities adapted to these expectations. We then promote them through our social media channels, in very targeted campaigns.

Engaging the citizens who live in your city, region or nation has always been a key element of successful place branding strategy, but why and how can you engage your diaspora as ambassadors for your place?

Recent surveys show that Parisians love their tourists very much! This is a great thing because tourism is essential in Paris, and we are delighted that residents and visitors get along well!

To engage citizens to become the best ambassadors for their city, they must already feel comfortable there. In addition, it is up to the City to create the conditions for tourism which does not hinder local life - which is the case in Paris. 

Finally, the many social medias and sites that connect local people and visitors are also a great help to development this new type of "like a local" tourism. Our role is to participate in this networking, in order to help initiatives to succeed and people to meet, which we do by working in particular with start-ups specialized in hospitality and tourism.

At last, through our social networks, we give as much space as possible to ambassadors who want to showcase their city. We really enjoy working on this type of very enriching partnerships.


Why do you think we are seeing a growth in networks of places with similar challenges, and collaboration between places on strategic initiatives?

Tourism is becoming more global, and we are all facing the same challenges. That's why it's interesting to meet the different destinations and discuss how each one works.
 Working together with other destinations can bring many benefits, including the promotion of double stays, which are more responsible because they optimize a single trip. The 'Don't Wait Campaign' that we created with London & Partners for the American target is a real success, particularly because it has highlighted Paris and London as a combined destination.

Do you think it’s important to connect place branding more effectively with placemaking / place shaping?

Yes, of course, this is very much in line with the search for authenticity. This is easier for a destination brand, which relies on local heritage and talents.

Why is it crucial for places to explore more innovative approaches to funding?

It is necessary to anticipate future changes and diversify resources. This is valid in all places, in order to guarantee long-term viability. If we are part of a long-term strategy, then we must ensure solid funding, which must therefore be based on several variables. This ensures that even if one variable declines, the others will ensure funding stability.


Do you think places could be using data more effectively to inform and shape place branding strategy?

The use of data is central and must indeed be at the heart of any brand strategy. This makes it possible to be more relevant when addressing visitors, and to know exactly who they are and what their expectations are when addressing them. But we must be careful to comply with data protection laws and limit ourselves to providing relevant services, not over-soliciting our visitors.

If you had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel anywhere – all expenses paid – where would you go?

I’d love to have a one-year trip to travel the world by boat and bike!

Related reading:

City to city collaboration: London & Paris

Has the pandemic killed soft power?

The politics of space, culture, and placemaking on post-COVID place branding

The roadmap for sustainable recovery

Hall of fame: Best place branding and marketing campaigns

The place branding bookshelf

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.