Hall of Fame: 20 of the best place marketing and place branding campaigns

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. As we gear up for the 2021 City Nation Place Awards, we wanted to revisit this list to share some of our personal favourites from the Awards archive and to update it with the campaigns from 2020 that we just can’t stop thinking about!


BEST CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT

Checkout 247 - Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 2018

Screenshot of the

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.


#VappuAtHome: Celebrating a Virtual May Day – City  of Helsinki, 2020

May Day is a major celebration in Finland – but 2020 had to be different. Faced with the challenge of keeping their residents off the streets and in their houses during lockdown, the Helsinki orchestrated  a virtual celebration – complete with a concert in a virtual model of the city! As well as being a major success (1.4 million people attended the concert), the campaign tied in beautifully with Helsinki’s place proposition and boosted their reputation as a digital forerunner.


BEST COMMUNICATION STRATEGY

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

Bringing tourism back to Puerto Rico - team photo

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.


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

Paddington is GREAT - image of Paddington Bear

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.

 

BEST USE OF DATA

The strategy for presenting Lithuania Abroad – Office of the Government of Lithuania, 2020Office of the Government of Lithuania's logo

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.  


BEST USE OF DESIGN & PLACE IDENTITY

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.


My city, the city with soul - Visit Jackson, 2017

Music is the beating heart of Jackson's culture, so when they needed to revitalise their image for a younger demographic, that's where they started. And rather than retro-fitting an existing song for their campaign, they reached out to and up-and-coming artist, Adam "AJC" Collier, to write a song that captured the essence of the "City with Soul" as he understood it. The result is true tribute to the city's culture.


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

Take another look - mountains 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

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.


BEST USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Codenhagen Challenge - Copenhagen Capacity, 2018

Talent is one of the constant challenges for cities and nations. Copenhagen had a novel response to their talent requirements. Through a comprehensive influencer campaign, the city launched a series of coding challenges. As well as raising the profile of the city as a centre of tech innovation, the challenge gave Copenhagen access to a pool of engaged and talented IT professionals - all of whom had an interest in working in the city.


Dreaming of one day – Wesgro, 2020

2020 saw any number of destination marketing campaigns that focussed on dreaming of the day you’d be able to travel internationally once more. The Western Cape took this idea one step further – by actually encouraging people to dream about the region. A multi-platform approach used visual cues and possible itineraries to keep the area top of mind, but the real genius is in their podcast series. Soundscapes of whales in Gansbaai, horseback riding in Stellenbosch, and sipping tea in the historic Bo-Kaap were designed to sooth potential visitors as they drifted off to sleep.


Looking back to look forward: How we used history lessons to influence behaviour change – Doncaster Council, 2020

What do social distancing and an exploding whale have in common? You’d be forgiven for thinking there couldn’t possibly be a link between these two, but nonetheless, they were critical to Doncaster’s viral success. A series of tongue in cheek twitter threads used historical anecdotes to encourage people to adopt better practice during COVID-19 and put a light-hearted spin on an incredibly serious message. Absolutely iconic.


The hardest song in the world - Inspired by Iceland, 2018

We shout about this campaign a lot. But this is a list of our favourite place branding and place marketing campaigns, and it wouldn't be complete without Iceland's "Hardest Karaoke Song in the World." It's infectiously fun, and highlights the best of Icelandic culture and spirit. And the creative ambition paid off, with an overwhelmingly positive response and a reach of over 800 million impressions in the first year.


There's no nightlife in Utah - Visit Salt Lake City, 2018

There's nothing to do in Salt Lake campaign

In May 2017 one of players from the NBA playoff was asked if they'd prefer playing the L.A. Lakers or Utah Jazz and said, "The Lakers. There's no nightlife in Utah." A damning statement, but the Visit Salt Lake team, however, saw a fleeting opportunity. Their tongue-in-cheek video response shared some of the diverse highlights of the Salt Lake City nightlife - all under the headline "There's nothing to do in Salt Lake" and the local community quickly caught on and began to share their own stories. Why do we love it? Because it shows that there's an opportunity in everything if you have the daring and creativity to seize it and make the moment your own.


PLACE BRAND OF THE YEAR

Eindhoven - Eindhoven 365, 2018

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! 


Our brand essence - essential Costa Rica, 2019

Costa Rica's brand valuesThe 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.


Restart in Idanha - Bloom Consulting, 2018

Repositioning rural life in Idanha-a-Nova

In four decades, Idanha-a-Nova lost about 70% of its population, dropping from more than 35,000 residents to about 8,000. Along with this huge demographic problem, Idanha and the rural world faced a not inconsiderable set of negative perceptions about rurality and country life. They deserve a place on this list for their ambitious new positioning as an innovation hub for agri-tech, but they're also an amazing example of the impact a comprehensive place brand strategy can have: at the time of entering, the migratory balance was about to reach a positive level for the first time since the 1950s.


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.


The City Nation Place Awards are now open! Enter by Thursday 9 September for your chance to win.

Purchase the 2020 Awards Showcase to access all the latest best practice case studies in place branding.


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