Interview with Natasha Grand from Instid

Erik Tregaard Erik Tregaard Managing Director, Morgan Stanley

We caught up with Natasha Grand, Director at INSTID (Institute for Identity) to discuss how place branding strategies have evolved over recent years.

CNP: Whilst place branding has, mostly, moved on from the logo and slogan approach, the design identity to support your strategy is still so important. What do you believe a great place identity should deliver for a city, nation or region?

NI: We design and help deliver the experience of a person in a given place. For graphics, this means a whole dedicated visual style, with around 10 different elements that can be used separately or mixed and matched to create a feel for the place, even in the absence of a logo. But place identity design goes much beyond the graphics into various types of visitor experience and all their senses: what should a local taxi, café, hotel, public transport look like? Sound? Smell? What language should people use there? What should the hosts’ manner be, apart from polite? The place identity must be imbued in as many interfaces and experiences as possible, defined in a set of clear standards for the hospitality sector. It is a fascinating and meticulous work that produces a very clear, consistent and memorable place identity.

CNP: How do you think an effective place branding strategy for a city, region or nation can contribute to that place’s economic resilience?

NI: Place identity done properly is similar to a professional personality test: we get to define and agree on the core values and attitudes that unite people in a given location given its climate, history and geography. In other words, we get to know what the people in the place are best at and what they can offer to the world, competitively and compellingly. This makes an easy job of defining economic and strategic developmental priorities. If the government channels economic resources into the points of biggest strengths, this makes for a better economic resilience.

CNP: What, in your view, is the single greatest challenge for place branders responsible for delivering effective, international communication strategy?

NI: To us, the crux of communication is always the message. Are you trying to say you are nice, like everyone else? This will only work for Scandinavia  Are you putting forward your genuine personality and character? Do you know your place personality? The mentality of your people, their life values, the experience they can create that is beyond ‘nice and friendly’? The message should be about the place personality and the authentic experience it gives. Once this is clear, you know your target audience and you know how and where to talk to them.

CNP: What is the key to successful collaboration between stakeholder teams and departments engaged together in a place branding strategy?

NI: From our experience, this is easier that one might think. Civil servants are usually genuinely united by their affection for the place, we find it everywhere. If they get on board with the project, they will work creatively to see how their particular departments can interpret it and contribute to it. The key is to match their dedication, and prove that you are serious about their place and their work.

CNP: If you weren’t working for your own city, region or nation, which place would you like to work for?

NI: Challenging places, with uncertain or unestablished reputation, which are not necessarily in the developing world only.

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