Hall of Fame: 21 of the best place branding and place marketing examples

Over the years, we've been privileged to see some of the best and brightest of place branding and place marketing campaigns from around the world. Below are some of the best destination marketing campaigns, the most innovative investment promotion strategies, and the most effective place branding and place marketing examples. As we gear up for the 2023 City Nation Place Awards, we wanted to some of our personal favourites from the Awards archive and to update it with the campaigns from last year that we just can’t stop thinking about!

BEST EXAMPLES OF CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Checkout 247 - Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 2018

Screenshot of the livestream of Checkout247, showing an array of items purchased by Finnish residents as part of the destination marketing campaign.


Sometimes, the simplest idea is the most effective. And you can't get much simpler than a live-streaming of a grocery conveyor belt. On the eve of Finland's centenary independence celebration, the live-stream allowed a moment of togetherness for Finns to connect with people around the world to share the story of everyday life in Finland.


Moldova for peace - Invest Moldova, 2022

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, thousands of Ukrainian refugees began fleeing to Moldova. As a multinational country, many of whose citizens had previously expressed pro-Russian views, Moldova faced a communication crisis. The Moldova for Peace campaign unified the country around a common message – that Moldova is a neutral country that promotes peace, a message that everyone could support. The campaign was key in combating fake news aimed to divide Moldova, providing support to refugees, and maintaining unity in the face of a growing economic crisis in Moldova.


The key to revealing your regional identity? Listening. - Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development & Tourism, 2021

Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo desperately needed to start sharing their own story, instead of it being dictated by outsiders. The team began an inside-out approach to identify the region’s place brand – and it started with listening. In-depth interviews with a range of people identified a ‘master story’ that was then taken back to the community and refined based on their feedback. Ultimately, the team’s measure for success was that any resident could speak about Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo and naturally touch on the strengths and assets in the place brand strategy framework – without ever having seen it. It’s a textbook approach to both citizen engagement and developing a place brand strategy that will provide the foundation for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo to build on over the next decade and beyond.


BEST COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES FROM NATION, REGION, AND CITY BRANDING TEAMS

From "Come Back" to comeback - Discover Puerto Rico, 2018

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico just days after Hurricane Irma had also struck the Island. Puerto Rico had to convince tourists that the best way to help was by visiting the Island – positioning tourism as a powerful tool for economic development. Their success is inspiring in and of itself - but as the world looks towards recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, their story is more important than ever.


Hän Honours – Ministry For Foreign Affairs Of Finland, 2021

Image of the Han Honours logo and multiple hands clasped together

Finland wanted to be known for its dedication to equality, but just telling people that ‘Finland is committed to equality’ won’t cut it. Actions were needed to make a real difference. The team created the Hän Honours, named after ‘Hän,’ a Finnish gender-netural pronoun and an inclusive symbol for Finnish equal opportunity. Finnish embassies around the world were invited to award to people, groups, or organisations that are working locally to bring more equality to their surroundings. It’s an acknowledgement and a thank you note from Finland to individuals who sometimes are working in difficult circumstances and might not receive much positive attention from their own governments. The campaign introduces Finland as a country of equal opportunities, and also puts greater goodwill out into the world.


Remote Tourism – Visit Faroe Islands, 2020

Visit Faroe Islands have a history of innovative campaigns that capture the imagination of people around the world – whether that’s taking on Google Maps or inviting 100 strangers to visit the islands as ‘voluntourists.’ Once again, though, they raised the bar with a campaign that invited people in lockdown to visit the island remotely – by sending commands to a real person who would walk, run, or jump in any direction you asked. Its interactivity immediately put it a head and shoulder above most other virtual tours, and the sheer ingenuity of the whole project just has to be applauded.


Vilnius: Amazing wherever you think it is – Go Vilnius, 2020

You’d think that it would be a major disadvantage if your target market didn’t know where your city was located. For Vilnius, it was an opportunity to break the traditional destination marketing formula and showcase the city’s spirit and sense of humour. The campaign only ran for a short period before the outbreak of COVID-19 halted marketing around the world, but the creative ambition behind the project ensures that the campaign made its mark and earned media allowed them to reach over 130 million people.


Welcome to GREAT Britain - The GREAT Britain Campaign, 2016

An example of the nation brand marketing of the GREAT Britain campaign. The advert says 'Paddington is GREAT' and has a photo of Paddington Bear sat by a pile of suitcases at Paddington station. On the right hand side there is a segment of the Union Jack.

Image courtesy of The Drum

The GREAT Britain campaign is a stunning example of collaborative partnerships at their very best. Leveraging Britain's soft power assets, the GREAT Britain campaign capitalised on national anniversaries (such as the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death) to bastions of both Britain's private and cultural sectors. The lesson? Reach deep into your culture and share it with the world - some times the very things you need are right at your fingertips.

 

Welcome to the Icelandverse - Business Iceland, 2022


You have to commend an organisation who can turn around a destination marketing campaign in less than a fortnight. Just twelve days after Mark Zuckerburg announce the launch of the Metaverse, Business Iceland was in market with their parody film, “Welcome to the Icelandverse” – an entirely immersive, open-word experience that is actually based in reality. The tongue-in-cheeck campaign caught the world’s media by storm, and Mark Zuckerberg himself weighed in less than 23 hours after the campaign went live, saying “Amazing. I need to make a trip to the Icelandverse soon.”


Your university city - Marketing Sheffield, 2022

This campaign broke the mould for student attraction in the UK by bringing together two high profile universities for a campaign that promoted the experience of studying in Sheffield, rather than the individual USPs for either university. We always love a campaign that’s rooted in collaboration, and this campaign bought together multiple stakeholders across the city and led with their place brand narrative – to great effect.


BEST USE OF DATA FROM AROUND THE WORLD

The strategy for presenting Lithuania abroad – Office of the Government of Lithuania, 2020

Since 1996, Lithuania has made several unsuccessful attempts to build a nation brand. Building on the lessons from these past attempts, the Brand Lithuania Group opted for a data-driven strategy to uncover what Lithuania’s existing reputation was internationally at home. The detailed strategy has led to several successful campaigns and aligned the key stakeholders behind a single brand platform.  


Chile's comparative perception panel study in key markets for a more data driven and multisectoral strategy – Imagen de Chile, 2021

Chile had a small budget, but big needs in terms of audience knowledge and understanding the impact of their work. To rectify this, the team carried out a perception study in target cities to understand where Chile currently ranked. As well as uncovering key insights from their priority markets and developing a base line from which to measure future place brand and marketing strategies, the approach also solidified the importance of Imagen de Chile’s work and re-engaged key stakeholders in the place brand mission.



BEST USE OF DESIGN & PLACE IDENTITY FOR PLACE BRANDING AND MARKETING ORGANISATIONS

Brand Bergen, entered by Visit Bergen, 2020

Bergen was in desperate need of a new visual identity – the former wasn’t made for digital surfaces, and the positioning of ‘Gateway to the Fjords’ suggested the city was a stop-over destination. As part of the re-design, a bespoke typeface was developed, inspired by the quintessential architecture of the region. The key to their success is in a ‘show, don’t tell’ approach that ensures the spirit of the city lives and breathes in all their communications.


Take another look: Azerbaijan's country re-brand - Landor & Fitch, 2019

An example of the destination marketing for Azerbaijan's Tourism Board. In the background is a mountain with the phrase 'Azerbaijan: Take another look'. To the centre right is a visual overlay of snowy mountains, showing the multitude of possibilities in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's 2019 re-brand challenged people to look again and discover the beauty and wonder of a country behind the stereotypes. The design identity parallels the contrasts of the country beautifully, and it's flexibility means the design can be adapted to any number of situations. And what's more, the bold vision has had real impact and changed perceptions of potential travellers across the globe.


Vauxhall London, entered by Anatomy Brands, 2020

An example of the branding for Vauxhall, London. The left half is green and has an illustration of a performer from Vauxhall's heyday balancing on a ball. The words read 'Different is the new normal'. On the right, the background is dark blue and the writing overlaid on top reads 'Inclusive community. Celebrating difference. Entertaining London. The past inspires the future.

Vauxhall is part of Europe’s largest regeneration area, but it also has a unique history. A new design identity bridges the gap between past and present by blending the punk elements of their music scene with original illustrations of performers from Vauxhall’s heyday as a Pleasure Garden. It’s eye-catching, it’s bold, and the jaunty personality the design brings to the place rings authentically true. They’ve truly captured the heart and spirit of the area whilst bringing a warmth and playfulness to the design.


Zuidoost, Amsterdam's fastest changing city district - Zuidoost City, 2021

A grid of four photos showing Zuidoost's brand identity in different locations. The top left is a banner alongside a hall. The top right is on a tote bag carried by a person - you can only see their legs and waist. On the bottom left the identity is showing on a billboard in front of an empty road. And on the bottom right, there is a 3D construction of a cross that has been build in a public square which has been emblazoned with Zuidoost's new place brand identity. A man is sat on the left hand side of the cross.

Creating a visual identity that works for an entire community is a mammoth ambition. But that’s what Zuidoost set out to do with their new design strategy. Residents of Zuidoost, a district of Amsterdam, have roots all over the world, with over 130 different nationalities represented. The visual identity had to radiate the pride that connects residents (both old and new) while emphasising the unique character of the region. A new, open-source design allows everyone to make the design their own by using their own colours and language – whether that’s to represent their home country or a company brand. An identity that has been created that works for a person and for a community.


BEST PLACE BRANDING EXAMPLES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Eindhoven - Eindhoven 365, 2018

A grid of three photos showing the zig zag design of Eindhoven's place brand identity in action. On the left is street art showing the silhouette of a small girl being carried away by the Eindhoven logo which has been stylised to look like balloons. On the top right, you can see an empty street at night where the logo has been painted on to the side of a skyscraper. And on the bottom right, there is a plate of food, where the food has all been arranged into the three zig zag pattern.The place branding strategy of Eindhoven is a long term project: to serve the community of Eindhoven, to create economic value and future-proof the city. But its true legacy is in the civic pride it has encouraged in its citizens. The versatile design can be found throughout the city - even on the residents as locals share the pride by having the design tattooed! 


Estonia – Estonian Business & Innovation Agency, 2022

Estonia launched their nation branding strategy in 2017 based on three core messages: digital society (what is the country like?); clean environment (what is the space like in Estonia that they live in?); and independent mind (what are the people like?). However, the war in Ukraine was an unexpected and horrific reality that made the team re-think their place branding strategy. In a time of crisis, the benefits-based strategy was no longer enough. So for the first time since the launch, the team added a new core message: democratic values. This new, values-led approach has created a framework for Estonia to articulate how they’re responding to new crises as well as what it is that the country stands for.


Our brand essence - essential Costa Rica, 2019

A grid of four photos showing still from Essential Costa Rica's nation branding campaign. The top left shows the word 'Innovation' overlaid someone making a new tool. On the top right, the word 'Excellence' is on top of a room with two rows of desks filled with computers. On the bottom left are the words 'social progress' with the hand of a scientist drawing atomic structures on to a glass wall. And on the bottom right is the word 'sustainability' on top of a photo of a Costa Rican waterfall.The Costa Rican place brand strategy is a holistic approach that shapes and directs all their actions with inter-institutional collaboration as the foundation of their efforts. Their journey from tourism brand to nation brand is inspiring, and with an ambitious decarbonisation plan by 2050, we're excited to see how their place brand can continue to provide resilience and direction.


Tamaki Makaurau Auckland is Calling – Auckland Unlimited, 2020

While ‘Brand New Zealand’ resonates globally, the country’s largest city and economic hub is less well known. Through comprehensive research, the city four key pillars to shape the way they communicated with the world and to help close the narrative gaps they identified between the perception of Auckland and their everyday reality. The strategy integrates Auckland’s Maori identity into their broader place brand approach and united stakeholders under the new brand. Launched in lockdown, it’s also providing the framework through which the city is planning their recovery.


Tasmanian - Brand Tasmania, 2021

For generations, mainland Australians mocked Tasmanians for being unsophisticated, yet tourism to the region had increased exponentially, small businesses have created an artisanal economy and culture, and they’re self-sufficient in renewable energies – but Tasmanians didn’t know how to talk about this. After interviewing over 400 Tasmanians one-on-one, the team identified a consistent, powerful story – ‘the quiet pursuit of the extraordinary.’ The place brand strategy is uniting the community behind a new purpose and also owns their historical mistakes and challenges while shining a light on the present.


The 2023 City Nation Place Award Winners have been announced - check them out here.

Want to view the past 5 years of Awards best practice case studies? Purchase access to The Place Brand Portfolio here.


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

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