logo Corinna Keller VP Advertising Sales The Americas, CNN International

How do you identify your point of differentiation?

Creating a destination marketing or investment promotion strategy that recognises your heritage whilst establishing a clear point of difference from your neighboring destinations can be tough. It's not enough to say that you offer an 'authentic' experience - you have to be able to back your claim up. So how do you ensure that your place brand truly reflects what is unique about your place? Corinna Keller, VP Advertising Sales for the Americas, and Tini Sevak, VP Audience & Data, at CNN International, shared their insights on how places in Latin America & the Caribbean could overcome this challenge, as well as some of the opportunities that the future may hold.

CNP: What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing place branding and marketing teams working for cities, states and places across Latin America and the Caribbean?

CK: Latin America and the Caribbean offer some of the most incredible opportunities for tourism and cultural heritage. From the pristine, white beaches of the Caribbean and Mexico to the indigenous cultures of the Aztecs and Mayans to the cosmopolitan cities of Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and São Paulo, there is something for everyone. The regional challenge is how to differentiate and highlight the unique characteristics of each country when the region offers many similarities – the Caribbean has many amazing beaches, for example, but how do you differentiate them when they are also so similar?

There is a need to focus on each country’s heritage and culture which is often hard to accomplish in a banner ad or a TV commercial. This is where a 360-degree approach to unique storytelling through native articles, feature pages and longer form editorial products can really differentiate and highlight the unique heritage of each destination – in addition to highlighting what audiences may already know about their beautiful beaches and resorts!


CNP: Place branding can be the solution to creating a clear point of differentiation - what do you see as being the key difference between place branding and place marketing?

TS: Place branding and place marketing are no doubt connected but are fundamentally two different things. Branding is about the identify of an organization, defining ‘Who you are’ whilst marketing is about how you build awareness. These two elements work together for any organization. Branding is your strategic view of your organization looking at questions such as ‘what is your core vision and principles?’, ‘what is your mission?’, ‘what makes you unique?’, etc. Marketing is the tactics and tools used to deliver the brand message. How you use your various marketing levers will evolve and will be adapted for difference audiences, platforms etc but the branding needs to be consistent over time. So which comes first? Personally speaking, the core of your marketing strategy needs to be your brand message – this is what will keep your audiences coming back for more.

CNP: City brands in the Latin American and Caribbean regions are finding their way into the spotlight – how can nation brands work more effectively with cities to support a clear place brand identity?

CK: I think that a nation and a city can work very effectively together. The cities that are spending to promote their destinations tend to be the gateways to the nation as they host the large, international airports. The key is for the two to work together to create complementary messages where the city highlights its unique heritage but also demonstrates it’s part of a larger country that has many other opportunities for tourists to take advantage of. By providing tourists with multiple reasons to visit a city or country, the chances for them to come increases exponentially.


CNP: What advantages are there for promoting better collaboration between economic development and destination marketing teams?

TS: Last year, I was honored to attend and speak at the UNWTO summit in Bahrain last October. One of the key themes from the summit was the importance and link between the travel & tourism economy and economic development for any given city, nation or place. For many cities, nations and places, tourism exceeds the traditional economic exports (i.e. oil, manufacturing, food, automotive) and has become a vital role for international trade and source of income for developing countries not just in terms of tourism revenue but infrastructure and employment.

CNP: What is your top tip for creating a place brand strategy that is sustainable in its approach – both in terms of preserving the culture of your place and of minimising environmental impacts?

TS: For me, this is where I believe we will truly see the impact and application of data & technology for the travel and tourism industry. One of the key innovations that I am particularly excited about is the use of IoT in the hotel and hospitality industry to reduce wastage and driving cost saving. We are already seeing major hotel chains experimenting with smart guestrooms; adjust lighting based on natural light levels or allowing guests to change room temperature from an app (vs keep a key card and AC running all day).


CNP: Other than your own session, what are you most looking forward to at the City Nation Place Latin America & Caribbean conference?

TS: Hearing about the latest and greatest in the travel industry and meeting like-minded individuals.

CK: Networking and seeing old friends.


CNP: If you had the opportunity to move to any place in the world, where would you be most interested in living and working?

CK: I am so fortunate to live and work in Miami which is a tropical paradise and gateway to the greatest region in the world, Latin America. If I could move anywhere, I would go all across the world to Sydney, Australia to give Oceania a try – they still have great weather and beaches and are close to Asia, which is a region I haven’t fully explored.

TS: I have been blessed to have spent my working career to date living and working in both New York City and London. If I could continue my journey around the world, I would love to work & live in India, Singapore, Cayman Islands, California & Texas – these are places that are not only at the forefront of data & technology innovation but tap into my other passion in life – food & flavors!

City Nation Place Americas 2020

Join the City Nation Place Team for the 4th anual conference - Book by March 7 and save

Book Now

Awards showcase book

Access all THE SHORTLISTED case studies from City Nation Place Awards 2019