Designing an award-winning place brand campaign

Creating your place brand strategy is complex at best - and implementing it is no easier. Given the challenges that place branders face, we asked Cat Leaver, Director at Brand Scotland to share her insights around what makes an award-winning campaign in 2019.

CNP: Why do you think that it’s important to benchmark and celebrate well-crafted place branding and place marketing strategies?

CL: In a world of increasing internationalisation and competition, it’s important that places stand for something to stand out from the crowd. Celebrating your place’s unique points of difference, character and assets allows us to shape an identity and reputation that resonates and drives recognition. And benchmarking how we are performing enables us to monitor how successful these strategies are. Whilst corporate brands have been thriving in this space for decades, it’s only in more recent years that place brands have really come to the fore. So, it’s fantastic to see so many experts in this field delivering tangible results for their place.   


CNP: Is there anything that you’re particularly hoping to see as a member of our jury? Or a top tip for entry writing that will grab your attention?

CL: The strongest entries will be those that not only illustrate a considered strategy based on insight and understanding but also are able to demonstrate how effective their strategy is. This means learning from mistakes as much as it is about successes.  

CNP: What is the greatest challenge when it comes to engaging citizens in your place brand vision?

CL: Place branding is contentious by its very nature and no matter how much it is based on research, insight and a reflection of its citizens, there will always be those who do not feel it represents them or resonates. The trick is to take your citizens on the journey with you, so that they understand why you are focusing on the place’s brand and what benefit it could bring to them. You, ultimately, want them to feel ownership of this brand, understanding that they are as much a custodian of it as you are.   

CNP: Do you think many places do a good job of leveraging their diaspora as ambassadors for your place?

CL: Leveraging diaspora is always a tough task because they are a disparate and often disconnected group. Some places, like New Zealand, have looked to put a digital portal in place that encourages virtual interaction amongst its diaspora. I think as place brands mature, we’ll see more integration of digital and physical networks to better maximise diaspora as ambassadors. 

CNP: Do places need to transform their approach to securing funding for place branding strategies? Are there any examples of innovative approached to funding that you have noticed?

CL: The simple answer is yes. But the mechanics of this are far from simple. GREAT successfully gained buy-in from the upper most levels of UK Government, thus securing a funding model that not only entitles them a lot of control and autonomy, but also delivers greater security. Some places have successfully established public/private partnership (/joint venture) models that enable for less bureaucracy and greater agility. But the funding model will be largely dependent on the infrastructure, maturity and appetite of that place. There are a lot of pieces that need to come into place for a secure funding model to be established. 

CNP: Do you have any tips for place marketers trying to create a communications platform that stands out from the crowd?

CL: Your narrative needs to be authentic, relevant and credible. If you do not base your communications about your place on what actually exists within your place, then it will never gain traction. There is a tendency to jump on consumer trends or industry boons, but if these are not reflective of the strengths your place offers, then an aspirational message will drive little cut through. For me, it’s about knowing what your place stands for and where it’s strengths lie and using these focal points to galvanise others around your story. 

CNP: Do you think that place branders are improving their usage of social platforms? What would your top tip be to leverage social media more effectively?

CL: Social media is increasingly at the heart of many place branding strategies, offering platforms for two-way conversation, user generated content and global reach. The best social media strategies engage their communities and ensure that they tackle the good, the bad and the ugly with respect, humanity and honesty. 

CNP: Design is so much more than a logo – how do you believe place branding strategies should incorporate great design thinking?

CL: All too often people associate place branding with a logo. But this is only one part of a complex and integrated mix of branding elements. Great design thinking is evidenced in user-first experiences. Place brand marketers should be looking to remove friction for the end user, simplify and streamline, and ensure they can achieve their goals with ease.


CNP: Given the long-term vision and collaborative approaches required for effective place brand strategy, what is the most important skill for place branding teams – creativity or diplomacy?

CL: Place branding teams need to be able to display equal levels of creativity and diplomacy – they are not exclusive or opposing skills. Partnership and collaboration are at the absolute core of success and ensuring that these relationships can be nurtured and navigated are imperative.  

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

 CL: This is a tough question. I enjoy traveling to different locations for lots of different reasons. At the moment I’d be tempted to say Borneo – given the sad and precarious position of the Orangutans currently, it would be a privilege to see these beautiful creatures in the wild and explore the incredible biodiversity on offer there.

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