The future of place branding with Jos Vranken


With the new decade looming large on the horizon - and technology continuing to develop rapidly - how will place branding need to evolve to face the new challenges? Jos Vranken, Managing Director at NBTC Holland Marketing, shared a few of his predictions for the future of place branding.

CNP: 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?

JV: Place branding and marketing is getting out of infancy and experiencing growth pains. Sharing ideas, knowledge and experiences contributes to its awareness, effectiveness and maturity. 

CNP: 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?

JV: The industry - and subsequently industry stakeholders - are at crossroads. Future decades will look distinctively different from previous ones. NBTC Holland Marketing has been changing its strategic direction and organisation accordingly, moving from marketing and promotion to development and management. Future strategies will be based on new paradigms, e.g. tourism as a means to an end rather than a goal in itself, from sector interest to joint interests, from quantity to quality/value and from economic gains to net integral gains.       

CNP: 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?

JV: Strategies based on the joint interests of residents, visitors and businesses and based on the places’ DNA and identity, nurturing and evolving places into vital places that people are proud to live and work in, that guests love to visit and that allow businesses to flourish.       

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

JV: Building on places’ true identity and DNA. It should be logical, recognisable and credible by and among its residents and subsequently other stakeholders.

CNP: 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?

JV: Living abroad often makes you miss ‘home’. The positive memories seem to outweigh the negative ones. Building communities and interacting with diaspora can turn them into places’ biggest and most loyal ambassadors. Tap into their pride. We experienced this some years ago hosting an annual Queensday event at Trafalgar Square in London, actively reaching out to and involving the Dutch community, building and contributing to live ‘Orange’ coloured experiences for English (and foreign) guests.   


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

 JV: Globalisation and internationalisation and common sense… A Dutch saying states: on your own you may go faster, together you will get further.    

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

JV: Yes. Effective branding requires delivering proof. For that you need to integrally develop and manage places besides ‘just’ communicating and expressing the brand. 

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

JV: Since you can’t rely on existing ones. Particularly government funding is subject of political cycles and may proof an unreliable source. Yet given the nature and scope of the challenges that lie ahead, government funding and involvement is essential. An interesting contradiction, also because it goes against the grain of the very popular belief in public-private funding models. We’ve been there, have been doing it and are trying to change it…  

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

JV: Yes!

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

JV: Holland… no, all kidding aside, the moon.

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