Eight fatal flaws in the data strategy underpinning your place brand strategy

A successful place branding and marketing strategy hinges on comprehensive data and insights – whether that’s researching your target audience or benchmarking the impact of your latest campaign. However, when you’re facing the ocean of data available to you, it can be hard to know where to start – and to know what mistakes you might be making along the way.

Starting with data that shapes your overall place brand strategy and moving on to refining your campaigns and marketing strategies, here are eight expert opinions on the most common errors being made so you can ensure you’re leveraging your data effectively.


Data is only as good as the insights you can glean from it.

The biggest challenge I see is teams not having the resources in place to best analyse or act on their data. They have great data sets, but lack the staff, time, or budget to effectively act on it in a meaningful way to achieve their goals. Just capturing the data is not enough. You need to analyse it properly, know what you’re measuring against, and how you can segment it to work for you in the future. Knowing that ahead of time also helps to determine the right data you should be capturing and paying the most attention to.

Jessica McCarthy, President & Co-Founder, Joy Riot


Develop a clear mathematical model to guide your strategy.

There are two errors that I come across on a regular basis. One is confusing reputation measurement with social listening. There is no such thing as "online reputation". The reputation of a territory is built through four channels: experience, communication, stereotypes, and the opinions of third parties. Analysing online opinions and conversations is very important, but we cannot identify the result of the analysis of one of the causes with the final reputation data. Social listening is neither a substitute for nor equivalent to measuring perceptions with direct stakeholder research.

The second is a lack of mathematical models that provide management levers. Good reputation metrics should provide management levers; in other words, they should help us to understand to what extent each variable impacts on the reputation of the organisation or territory and, finally, on economic variables. If the research does not provide the importance of the variables, it will be difficult to help us define management plans. A very common error in metrics models is to construct indicators by means of averages in different rational variables without providing the relationship of each variable with the general reputation indicator or each supportive behaviour monitored.

Fernando Prado Abuín, Managing Partner, Reputation Lab


Be targeted in your research: depth can be more valuable than breadth.

A common mistake we see is that countries and cities, and their nation and place brands work overtime to appeal to global scale of audiences. Instead, we suggest a narrower scope. With limited resources, as many nation and place brand projects face, it would be wise to clearly identify where you need to strategically invest your time and money. When working with data, we need to understand where is the “juice” and which data is important according to the nation and place brand strategy. We talk about this in more detail with Meira Pappi, a Country Image Specialist representing Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the second episode of our Bloom Consulting Conversations podcast.

Gonzalo Vilar, Managing Partner and Global Director of Nation and Place Analytics, Bloom Consulting



If you’re not measuring community satisfaction and engagement, then you’re missing a vital part of the picture.

In placemaking and marketing, it's easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but what I've learned — echoing what Jeff Bezos has recently pointed out — is that when there's a disconnect between what the data says and what the anecdotes suggest, more often than not, it's the anecdotes that hit the mark. It usually means there's a gap in how we're measuring success. In my experience, true effectiveness comes from aligning our data strategy with the heartbeat of the community—measuring satisfaction, engagement, and the lived experiences of the people, besides traditional metrics. When we listen to the community's stories - those qualitative insights, that can tell us so much more - and align our metrics accordingly, we create places that aren’t just busy or profitable, but vibrant, inclusive, and deeply connected to the needs and wishes of the community.

Manolis Psarros, CEO & Chief Strategist, TOPOSOPHY


Context is king.

Data is only great if context comes along with it for the ride. We often see in place marketing that only one or two metrics are emphasized. This means campaign outcomes can be misleading or built for the short-term, putting longer term objectives at risk. Instead, we advise tracking progress over multiple stages in a path to purchase. What gets rewarded gets managed, so building a holistic view of data – from awareness to decision – enables a stronger narrative and better outcomes. These are the strategies that build momentum over time, instead of barely meeting objectives every year.

Steve Duncan, Managing Director, C Studios


When setting a data-driven marketing strategy, it’s not enough to know your current customer.

  • Too often when consumer-facing brands develop marketing strategies, a focus on the existing customer drives the bulk of decision-making. Common mindsets include: Who is our existing customer and how can we find more of them?
  • What segment of our customer base buys the most? Invest more marketing dollars against them!

While these approaches can yield “good results” in marketing efforts, there is one problem – they can be short-sighted, failing to look out for the long-term success of the brand or to consider driving a lasting investment return.

Instead, brands need to think critically about their sustained growth and financial health, as well as their wider organisation goals when setting a data strategy to inform marketing decisions. Doing so requires upfront work, revisiting KPIs, and communicating how marketing success is defined, but the long-term benefits of this approach far outweigh the short-term “gains” offered by an ill-informed strategy.

TJ Walz, VP, Data Strategy & Performance Analytics, MMGY Global



Focus on unifying a variety of data sources to see the full picture of your place.

For so long, destination marketing organisations have chased after big numbers to make up for the industry’s lack of a unified cash register. Many leaders are still reluctant to let go of splashy, headline-grabbing metrics, even though today’s data sets are capable of so much more. When places layer big data — allowing lodging, geolocation, spending, and event data to inform and bolster one another — they get the full story, not just a stat. These rich data sets produce insights and trends that point places in the direction of strategic action, empowering them to pursue sustainability, accountability, and quality of life for their communities.

Ted Sullivan, Chief Marketing Officer, Zartico

Develop a strategy that accounts for the challenges of data fragmentation.

Data fragmentation continues to be a significant concern that makes it more difficult for destinations to develop a cohesive data strategy – especially as the industry faces challenges such as the ability of a DMO to drive visits to a destination sustainably, air schedule changes, equipment shortages, and lack of qualified personnel. Being able to constantly readjust and adapt to market changes unlocks opportunities for a destination that devotes the time to regularly collecting, organising, and evaluating this information. Acknowledging and addressing data fragmentation challenges head-on can help destinations make strides towards creating a robust and comprehensive data strategy that can more efficiently support their tourism goals and objectives.

Caterina Pintus, Destinations Insights Manager, Hospitality, Amadeus

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