Has place branding changed as much as we expected?

Three years ago, City Nation Place conducted a survey to discover how the place branding teams for cities, regions, nations and places around the world viewed their opportunities and challenges, and what they were predicting for the future. These are some of the conclusions we drew from the survey in 2017 – but how have these changed as we head into the new decade?

1. A growth in investment in place branding and marketing

Given that our respondents were all place brand practitioners or consultants, this isn’t really a surprise result. However, it was interesting to see where the consultants and other solutions providers in the space were predicting the greatest growth: 50% of our consultant respondents expected to see more growth in Asia. The European Union (including the UK) snuck into second place with 42.5% and South America came third with a predicted 37.5% business growth in the coming years. Whilst more cities and nations around the world are recognising the value of a place brand strategy, have these predictions for growth by geography come true?

2. Digital marketing expected to attract the largest share of budgets moving forwards

This was in contrast to a much lower increase predicted for TV, broadcast and outdoor advertising, making it clear that digital media was the expected to be a key component in the strategic implementation of place marketing. Interestingly though, while many destinations were predicting that they would increase their spend in digital media, relatively few consultancies were offering digital marketing services in 2017. How have consultants and suppliers developed their skills and services to meet the demand for digital solutions?

3. A growing interest in citizen engagement

While 64% of our respondents considered promoting tourism as a key part of their role and 56% were most focused on attracting investment, fewer than half (48%) of the respondents listed engaging with locals as one of their core roles. However, engaging citizens and businesses in the development and implementation of place brand strategy ranked as the third greatest challenge for places, and the top challenge for consultants. With more people looking to how they can advocate for their place brand strategy and involve their community, have place brand organisations evolved to include citizen engagement in their roles?

4. Collaboration and exchange of knowledge and best practice between places

Collaboration can be a challenge given the competitive nature of tourism, investment, and talent attraction. However, 88% of respondents felt that collaboration was an important component to the success of a place brand strategy. Given the specialist nature of place branding, sharing knowledge and insights is key to driving success across the industry, and over the past few years we’ve seen several superbly successful collaborations between places. London and Paris, for example, collaborated to attract more tourism from America by highlighting the ease of visiting two major European cities on a single trip. Or even Philadelphia, New York and Washington, whose “Influencer Exchange Programme” saw a massive return on investment. Is this a trend that is growing around the world?

5. Umbrella brand vs diverse brands for tourism and investment promotion

In 2017, 56% of respondents had an umbrella brand structure in order to promote common messaging around tourism and investment attraction, and 44% of respondents said that tourism and investment promotion / economic development teams functioned very independently. Has this approach to place branding changed since 2017?

Three years can be a long time, and the world of place branding has moved on a lot. But just how much? As we enter the new decade, City Nation Place are launching an update on their 2017 survey to discover which predictions we’ve seen coming true, and what challenges place brand practitioners are anticipating in the coming years.

Complete our survey by the 14th February to share your insights and be entered into a draw to win a complimentary ticket to a City Nation Place event of your choice. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the findings of our 2020 survey.

We have asked Ipsos, a leading worldwide market research firm, to conduct this online survey in our behalf. Your responses will remain strictly confidential and will be used for research purposes only. By taking this survey, you agree to Ipsos Privacy Policy and use of cookies.

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