Interview with Rob Hunden, President & CEO, Hunden Strategic Partners

Interview with Rob Hunden, President & CEO, Hunden Strategic Partners

We were fortunate enough to be able to catch up with Rob Hunden, CEO & Founder of Hunden Strategic Partners, to get his insight on the key trends affecting place branding in the USA and Canada ahead of City Nation Place Americas on June 6.

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

RH:  Converging the efforts of tourism branding and economic development branding into one cohesive message and effort is the biggest challenge, yet opportunity, facing communities. 


CNP: What do you believe are the emerging opportunities? [any particular markets, sectors, or marketing channel opportunities that excite you?]

RH:  No matter the size or type of community you live in, it offers something unique that is attractive to residents and companies, that then can translate to attracting visitors and new growth. 


CNP: What trends in place branding and marketing are you interested in exploring?

RH:  We believe that marketing organizations can play a lead role in driving investment in placemaking/place-changing developments, not just marketing and branding. Product development is the biggest trend. 


CNP: What are the advantages for closer collaboration between place making and planning teams, tourism, and economic development teams?  

RH:  One simply can look at successful and booming places like Nashville and Austin to understand that when the economic development, planning and tourism messages and efforts converge, then visitors, companies and residents are compelled to move in. 


CNP: Do you think it’s becoming more important for DMOs and EDOs to advocate for their role and their impact to politicians and citizens?  Why do you think that is?

RH:  Absolutely. DMO’s and EDO’s are on the front lines of creating jobs, experiences and quality of place. They see what the rest of the world is doing and the strategies needed to stay competitive.


CNP: Do you think great neighbourhoods are of increasing importance for the place branding strategies of towns and cities?  And what do you think makes a great neighbourhood community?  

RH:  Absolutely. Companies and visitors are attracted to the “real” living and unique neighborhoods of cities. Projects designed for tourists will never be as compelling as the changing organic nature of unique neighborhoods. 


CNP: How has the publicity of the Amazon HQ2 bid affected economic development organisations’ approach to attracting investment?

RH:  As I discussed in my panel last year, it has forced DMO’s and EDO’s to work together and we hope that collaboration continues. Having a single, easy to use site for all data related to a market gives a city a leg-up in attracting investment. 


CNP: What are the ingredients for success for cities competing to attract young talent?

RH:  Being self-aware. Know who you are as a community and celebrate that. Not everyone is weird, edgy or artsy, but all communities have unique characteristics that make them attractive for young people. Celebrate what makes you successful, mitigate the challenges and concerns and constantly be aware that demographic preferences change, so be on the ball!


CNP: Over-tourism and sustainability are two of the buzzwords in place branding at the moment – how do you feel DMOs need to adapt their strategies to meet these challenges?

RH:  The focus on unique experiences can mitigate over-tourism issues. Show people what is new and different, so that you can divert or add on to visits to the tried and true top attractions. 


CNP: Other than your own session, what are you most looking forward to at the City Nation Place Americas 2019 conference?

RH:  New ideas, new stories of success and creative thinking. 


CNP: If you weren’t in your current role, is there a city or country anywhere else in the world that you’d love to work for?

RH:  Probably British Columbia. It has something for everyone!