Belong to all: The place brand strategy for Madeira

Entered by Madeira Promotion Bureau [Credits: Bloom Consulting]

The Madeira Promotion Bureau (APM) is – since 2004 – a public-private partnership, created with the goal of uniting local stakeholders to better manage the resources, research, strategy, and promotion of Madeira to key audiences.

The need for a place branding strategy in Madeira was not a new topic internally when the project kicked off in 2020, but when lockdowns began in Portugal and their key target markets, they rapidly understood that this forced ‘pause’ in Madeira’s Tourism would be a unique opportunity to rethink their strategy and adapt their offer to the new and constantly evolving demands of the pandemic and post-pandemic world.

From the start, the team identified a problem in the communication between stakeholders and an increasingly seasonal tendency, despite being a tropical destination with an excellent climate all year long. They also identified key issues with their positioning, where their identity was unclear and their propositions volatile: they were dependent on a few markets and Madeira was perceived as a destination for retirees, consequently devaluating their products, services, and events.

The place branding project bid was awarded to Bloom Consulting right at the beginning of the European lockdowns, meaning that a considerable part of the project had to be done remotely.

Developing the place brand strategy

There were six steps to the strategy:

  1. Internal Analysis: The team talked to and involved all stakeholders, performed workshops, field trips, and visits – all to determine their internal perception.
  2. External Analysis: Online surveys, detailed target market analysis and international benchmarks were done to determine external perceptions.
  3. Territorial Assessment: An assessment was made to determine the real state of their territory and their global brand.
  4. Brand Workshop: Several internal workshops took place to determine what Madeira stands for and what kind of positioning and projects they should implement.
  5. Central Idea: A central idea was defined from within, from which the brand architecture and global positioning were detailed and passed on to their community.
  6. Brand Action Plan: A final Action Plan was developed with 10 main pillars and numerous projects and objectives. This plan is being implemented throughout the region.

‘Sense of Belonging’ was seen as the most unifying, accepted, truthful, pertinent, and unique immaterial asset for the territory with 600 years of history as a harbour for European, African, and American travellers. Based on the core idea that they are a place where people feel good amongst friends, where you experience life as a local, and where you always want to return, the team created ten key project / objectives to implement connected to the legacy of the many cultures in the island, the pride in being hospitable, and the need to create tailored experiences for those who they want to welcome into their home. 

The implementation

While the adaptation of platforms, materials, campaign visuals, and content are a relatively easy transition to be ‘onbrand,’ the implementation of 60 projects that sustain the 10 strategic brand pillars was considerably harder, requiring not only interdepartmental teams but also the help of local stakeholders to ensure the success of the first steps of each project. 

The implementation of the place brand strategy is not a static five year plan, but an always evolving guide to improve their organisation, destination, and experience of those who visit. And so the team will continue to work with national and regional government, local and external stakeholders, and their population, to have direct impact on the quality of life in
Madeira, the success of local businesses, and to grow the positive reputation of Madeira as a tourism destination.

Since the start of the implementation, Madeira has had an unprecedented revival, beating records in number of arrivals, revenue, and proactive demand. Despite the huge drop in 2020 / 2021, Madeira’s tourism has recovered in an exceptional way in 2022, having already reached historic values. According to estimates, they forecast a growth of 82% in relation to 2021, and 6% in relation to the best year of tourism in Madeira.

This year marked the best first semester ever of Madeira’s tourism in terms of revenue, and since the brand was launched, it has had a very positive impact in the proactive searches about Madeira’s tourism, beating the record for search volume in the first semester of the year.

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