Here are seven areas of place branding that you might be over-looking

As an organisation responsible for branding and marketing your place, there are an innumerable number of plates that you need to keep spinning. It’s a hugely complex activity, but with so many areas to watch out for – and limited resources – a few areas are bound to slip through the cracks.

To understand which areas are overlooked in developing and delivering a place brand strategy, we asked our place experts what they considered to be the most common mistakes made by cities, nations, and regions…

Mistake one: Losing momentum after the initial launch of a strategy

Many countries and cities focus too much on the place brand launch and less on the day after. I believe the majority of nation brand strategies fail because of low stakeholder engagement and the absence of the proper governance model.

Every nation brand project should have a solid management structure with roles, responsibilities, specific objectives, and an ongoing measurement system in play. Nation branding is an ongoing process, and it is never completed. Remember – reflect, assess, and repeat! And in order to uphold the interest of your team, report on your progress and future planning!

Jose Torres, CEO, Bloom Consulting


Mistake two: Focusing on the logo and forgetting the community

Place branding is so much more than a jazzy logo and imagery. It’s the very essence of community spirit, belonging and civic pride. So, it goes without saying that it’s vital to encapsulate this narrative and tell the story of past, present, and future place - with a voice that resonates with multiple audiences.

Many place brands are directed outward – with messages like: “You’ve got to come and visit!” or “Locate here – it's great!” This ignores the very heart of what makes a place what it is – its community. We always believe in amplifying the advocates and giving voice to those stakeholders, to whom it means the most and ultimately makes a place what it is.

Sheridan Wall, Managing Director, Property Marketing, Four Communications


Mistake three: Underestimating the impact of young place champions

One of the most consistently overlooked opportunities in place brand initiatives is building young place champions. No other audience has such a stake in the future and so much energy to contribute. Yet, from young teens to young adults, their voices are rarely meaningfully engaged in both the process of building a place narrative and bringing it to life through programs and volunteer opportunities. As a form of community development, place branding offers great leadership development experience and the ability to give younger residents a powerful sense of “agency” in shaping the future. Their talents as “digital native” communicators are invaluable assets. For destinations lucky enough to have post-secondary institutions nearby, those student communities offer wellsprings of talent and entrepreneurship that can also be engaged in creative ways. Understanding the priorities and passions of the next generation is invaluable in creating a place where they feel they can belong and contribute.

Jeannette Hanna, Chief Strategist, Trajectory

Mistake four: Aiming for quick wins rather than solidifying your memorability and distinctiveness

Getting and staying on consideration sets of a place or destinations most valuable audiences is one of the most common over-looked aspects of place branding. More often than not, place branding focuses efforts on ‘flash in the pan’ promotion that goes big, reaches the masses, and is then over before it’s even started to solidify in the consideration sets of audiences.

Distinctiveness and memorability don’t come from mass reach place branding, they are developed and established through tapping into niche audience targeting and engagement, personalising place, or destination travel/visit triggers for each audience. By running place branding at segment level, you can drive distinctiveness through unique content, creative and messaging angles personal to each audience segment, and as a result be more memorable across these audiences due to promotions tapped into audiences’ specific behaviours, needs, wants, and triggers. Digital media allows us to segment audiences at a much finer level and build unique place branding experiences for each, the place is the same, how you promote it to each audience is tailored based on their needs, wants and triggers.

Maria Bain, Senior Strategy & Insight Director, iCrossing UK

Mistake five: Underestimating the value of your visitor economy

The visitor economy is frequently the most overlooked aspect of place-branding. People always think about retail or workspace first, but the visitor economy, and particularly the people whose businesses deliver it, are the draw (and the glue) that really make places vibrant.

Jim Dawson, Head of Creative Digital & Marketing, Go To Places


Mistake six: Failing to bring the brand to life within the community

You need practical, tangible activations; going beyond logo and launch to genuinely bring the brand to life within the community.

A place brand should directly inspire a programme of initiatives and activities, that become an enduring and rewarding part of living and working in a place. Place branding is not just about raising awareness, reshaping perceptions or attracting customers. It’s also about enriching lives, in multiple, on-going ways.

Gary O’Kelly, Head of Creative, Brash


Mistake seven: Underestimating their value as a MICE destination

In 2022, the ability of a place to attract meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions ("MICE") opportunities and travellers is important. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shake-up. In 2022, traditional MICE destinations like New York, Las Vegas, Dubai, and Barcelona are looking for ways to innovate as the conference schedule picks back up, while others like Singapore and Hong Kong are slow to re-open. Less traditional MICE destinations now have a major opportunity to take advantage of a gap in the market and attract associations and companies for MICE events in hotels and convention centres that are not in the traditional MICE tourist circuit. Places need to develop the right digital brand identity to attract MICE opportunities, demonstrate their tourism product that will attract travellers, and showcase their ability to host meetings and events in order to generate leads.

Danny Cohanpour, CEO / Founder, Trove Tourism Development Advisors

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