Ten ways to prove the value of place branding and place marketing

It’s the million-dollar question in place branding: how do you prove the value of your work to stakeholders?

A successful place branding strategy is by its nature a long-term strategy, and those who don’t understand that will often be looking for shorter-term wins. So what does best practice look like when it comes to educating your stakeholders and giving a realistic overview of your impact? We reached out to the City Nation Place Expert partners to get their insight on what you should be focusing on.


Quantify the value of your brand.

Brand evaluation is the key to demonstrating impact. Robust and regular measurement of audience perceptions and financial value of your place brand makes your efforts in place branding and marketing accountable. Being able to demonstrate a desired shift in perceptions or a hike in how much your place brand is worth to the local economy will go a long way with all kinds of stakeholders – from political decision makers, to business investors, to licensees or industry partners, and communities that call your place home. New Zealand Story which has adopted the Global Soft Power Index to track progress in nation brand perceptions across key markets and globally, and the GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland Campaign which undergoes a regular brand valuation to measure the return on investment that it offers to the UK economy, are two outstanding examples of organisations that we have been proud to support in evaluating the impact of their place branding and marketing work over the years.

Konrad Jagodzinski, Place Branding Director, Brand Finance


Embrace digital tools that streamline your reporting.

Demonstrating the impact of place branding and marketing can be a “holy grail” – especially when it comes to stakeholders. DCI always recommends a baseline research study so it’s possible to measure improvements in awareness and perceptions to see if efforts are moving the needle in a positive direction. A streamlined dashboard measuring key performance indicators such as website traffic, social media engagement, paid advertising metrics, and earned media value can also be helpful especially if insights and top-line takeaways are included. Lean into digital marketing techniques that allow you to provide a crystal-clear return-on-investment picture to stakeholders.

Dariel Curren, EVP, Development Counsellors International

Develop KPIs in partnership with your stakeholders.

You can demonstrate the value of place branding and marketing before a project, to get it greenlit, and after the project, to celebrate wins. First, in consultation with stakeholders, identify a competitive set of other places that have branded and marketed themselves. Then, produce case studies showing the positive outcomes. During the creation of your work, develop KPIs with stakeholders. This way, after the project you can report on the efficacy of your work on those agreed upon KPIs. To add more proof, send out pre- and post-awareness attribution surveys and report on those as well.

John Armstrong, Chief Creative Officer & Co-Founder, Joy Riot


Align your KPIs with the priorities of your stakeholders.

There’s still a misunderstanding from regional stakeholders on the purpose and value of place branding—and many still see it as “another logo.” To demonstrate the value of place branding, we recommend engaging with and integrating stakeholders from the start. They must feel that they are part of the initiative and should be invited to co-create the place brand together. The second approach is developing KPIs and initiatives that will directly impact stakeholder (especially private sector partners) performance and productivity. For example, how can the place brand help improve talent acquisition conversion, or support SME export by increasing destination appeal.

Jeremie Feinblatt, VP, Strategy, Resonance


Educate your stakeholders in the purpose of place branding – and it’s differences from more traditional branding and marketing.

Context, stakeholder engagement and thinking with the end in mind are all important principles when trying to capture the value of place branding and marketing. There's a lot that's different with place marketing compared to other industries, so education of those challenges (and opportunities) sets the agenda. Next, when dealing with diverse stakeholders, prioritizing engagement and collaboration with them on the measurement framework is pivotal. Implementing initiatives like interactive workshops can establish what success is to them and align visions early on to gain greater buy-in. And finally, thinking ahead by conducting perception surveys of target audiences at the outset establishes a baseline from which to measure progress.

Tracy Vaughan, Digital Marketing Project Manager, C Studios

Engage stakeholders in the implementation of your brand to highlight the impact of your work.

The place brand team at Burnley continue to punch way above their weight with the collateral they produce and the amazing Bondholders ambassador programme which has been bringing businesses and organisations together for over 15 years! Collaboration, relationship building and quality are their watchwords which ensure the Bondholders keep driving the town forward. We Are Staffordshire in a very short time have doubled down on their opportunities by taking the county to audiences outside the county to London, Birmingham, MIPIM, UKREiiF and with the total support of their partners who are usually at these events banging the drum!

John Till, Director, thinkingplace

Don’t underestimate the importance of engaging locals.

In demonstrating the value of place branding to stakeholders, best practices include engaging local stakeholders and residents for authenticity, highlighting unique local experiences in marketing, and adopting collaborative efforts for broader appeal. The local aspect makes a tremendous difference in the lives of the community and the visitors who spend time with them. This approach gives locals a voice in their marketing efforts while getting a transparent look at how tourism dollars have immediate impact on them and their community.

Kash Miah, VP of Marketing, CrowdRiff

Move from ‘vanity metrics’ to actionable metrics tied directly to your efforts.

The key to demonstrating value is ensuring that destination marketing organisations (DMOs) are always working to be more sophisticated with their marketing strategies. As the world is faced with the deprecation and sunsetting of the third-party cookie next year, brands and DMOs are preparing for the future, protecting their data, and improving the success of their marketing by onboarding their own first-party data to use for enrichment, measurement, and activation.

Although DMOs have demonstrated their ability to track the success of their marketing campaigns, we are seeing a shift where DMOs are drilling down to more important metrics to wow stakeholders. There is less of a focus on “vanity metrics,” or those things that can be measured but don’t necessarily show a return on investment, and increased efforts on providing actionable metrics that drive revenue, like search and booking data tied directly to a DMO’s marketing efforts.

Some destinations are taking it a step further, measuring actual expenditures within their destinations tied to marketing, allowing DMOs to go deeper, measuring the success and duration of a given campaign, as well as the spend in destination across a wide range of spending categories.

As the digital marketing landscape continues to evolve, DMOs and economic development organisations are always looking for ways to improve their analytics and data measurement strategies. Although third-party cookie tracking capabilities will be changing soon, the silver lining is there are more and more solutions and improved technologies to help destinations utilise their own first-party data for more targeted marketing efforts and measurement solutions.

Leroy Bridges, VP of Sales, Adara – A RateGain Company

Demonstrate the return on your advertising spend.

The key is in consistently showing the impact that you’re having on your place. A recent campaign run on behalf of the Canary Islands’ Destination Management Organisation generated a three-digit return on ad spend, allowing the DMO to maximise its reach across intended markets, stimulate demand, and record an increase in tourism spend. If you can track that impact in relation to your campaigns, then you can build the case for the value of your work. Being able to measure the return on your advertising spend is a powerful tool in your arsenal.

What’s more, targeting those travellers that are most likely to visit the region by sending them the right message at the right time allows you to be far more effective with your existing budget, which is always a good way of proving the effectiveness of your strategy.

Tom Starr, Vice President of Global Destinations, Hospitality, Amadeus

Using co-op programmes to determine return on investment.

Co-op marketing is one of the top strategies that we see destinations implement to demonstrate value to stakeholders. Co-op programmes are designed to help destinations leverage community marketing dollars to further drive visitation, support their industry partners, and increase visitor spend in market. Individual participants receive customised digital marketing campaigns that we build based on the specific goals and KPIs of that business. The DMO receives aggregate reporting, including Sojern’s Economic Impact Report. This report shows actual bookings, confirmed travellers, ROAS, the overall economic impact for the destination as a result of the program, and more. Destination marketers can take this report back to their board and stakeholders and say, “We put X amount of money into a campaign to drive visitation and support our partners and it brought an economic impact of X to the destination.” It helps them show that they’re putting their marketing dollars to work, which is often very hard for destinations. The programs are great tools that answer stakeholders asking DMOs, “What are you doing to drive business to my organisation?”

Brenda Armstrong, Senior Director, Co-op Development, Sojern

City Nation Place have recently launched a report unpacking how places are investing in measurement and research. You can download the free Place Branding: Solving the Measurement Challenge HERE, which includes our survey analysis plus case studies from Destination Canada, Cape Town, The Hague, Tasmania, Regina, Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo, Chile, LA, London, New Zealand, and Stockholm.

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