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Performance Management in Place Branding

Welcome to our third post amplifying insights from the City Nation Place Global Forum. This piece picks up the issue of performance management and measurement of place brand strategy effectiveness.

There’s no one size fits all solution” offered Chris Fair, CEO of Resonance in summing up Robert Govers’ session on unlocking accountability at the CNP Global Forum. That’s good to know, but where does it leave place brand leaders looking for standardized KPIs that will inform place brand strategy and justify budgets?

I ran Chris’ conclusion past Peter Kentie, Managing Director of Eindhoven365, which is the official marketing organization of the Eindhoven city and region in The Netherlands. Peter is also architect of Estonia’s Nation Branding concept, so brings the perspectives of both place brand practitioner and consultant to the table. Peter confirms that place brand practitioners recognize it is hard to measure the specific effect of place branding, largely because this activity is impacted by influences such as the wider economy.

When considering effectiveness, Peter explains, “it is important to ask what wouldn’t have happened or been triggered if place branding hadn’t occurred?”

Peter elaborates that whilst the effects of campaigns can be measured, it is the “broader engagement of marketing, policies, societal and economic progress” that are harder to quantify.

To illustrate his point, half joking, he references the Eindhoven tattoo phenomenon. If citizens’ pride of place can be seen as an indicator of a place brand’s effectiveness, perhaps keeping a tally of how many are sporting the city’s logo as a tattoo is one way to quantify place brand performance.

“The unpredictable nature of these projects is not something to be feared”

How does Chris’ conclusion sit with those who are just setting out on their place brand journey?

Tamica Parchment is a government communications specialist based in the Caribbean. As a newcomer in this area of place brand communications, Tamica feels the challenge comes when she tries to explain to stakeholders that there is no set way to measure place brand effectiveness. Suggesting every location is different, so every place needs a different approach “can come across as vague and lacking consistency”.

Undaunted, Tamica adds “I would like to see more discussion around how the unpredictable nature of these projects is not something to be feared, but can be used as an agent to improve overall execution and effectiveness.”

“It starts by making a clear distinction between place marketing and place branding in terms of goals”.

I asked the place brand advisor Martin Boisen if he thinks there is sufficient guidance in the public domain about how to measure the effectiveness of place brand strategy? Martin was emphatic in his response stressing that “no, unfortunately my experience is that many places haven’t figured out how to approach the measurement of place brand strategy effectiveness yet”. He clarifies “it starts by making a clear distinction between place marketing and place branding in terms of goals”, adding “This distinction is also important when the responsibility for place marketing and place branding sits within the same organization”.

To help correct some of this confusion, Martin works with the following definitions:

Place marketing is a demand-driven way of managing places. It is an outside-in approach through which the offerings of the place are adjusted to appeal to selected market segments. The goal is to influence behaviour and choice. This means that the effectiveness of place marketing should be measured in behaviour and choice and not in perception and reputation. When discussing KPI's in this context, Martin refers to Key Performance Indicators.

Place branding is an identity-driven way of managing places. It is an inside-out approach that shapes the image that the place expresses by on-brand behaviour and storytelling. The goal is to influence perception and reputation. This means that the effectiveness of place branding should be measured in perception and reputation and not in behaviour and choice. When discussing KPI's in this context, Martin refers to Key Perception Indicators.

Martin explains that “at the very least, such a distinction helps formulate both the mandate and KPI's of place marketing and/or place brand management organizations”. According to Martin, KPI's should include throughput as well as output. He stresses that in his experience “it would be unfair, unrealistic and frankly irresponsible to solely formulate KPI's on outcome – such as changes in the reputation or the image of the place.”

To illustrate how this works, Martin has shared below a graphic indicating the KPIs used to measure the Oslo Brand Alliance place brand management. The KPIs for place marketing are not included here. These sit with Visit Oslo, Oslo Business Region and Oslo Regional Alliance:

To conclude, Martin warns that “formulating the wrong KPI's is often responsible for the stormy weather that many place marketing and/or place branding organizations find themselves in when somebody decides to evaluate their work or question their right to exist”.

Interestingly both Martin and Tamia believe academics, consultants and practitioners have a role to play moving forward the issue of performance measurement. For Martin, furthering the professionalization of the place branding discipline “starts by being specific about what means we follow to what ends”. For Tamia “practitioners may need to provide more guidance, so their clients and the public can gain the full understanding of the issue”.

“We don’t talk about place branding or nation branding. We talk about a program to create jobs and economic growth for Britain.”

Clearly the language used to communicate performance measurement to stakeholders is key. Chris Fair summed this up perfectly when he referenced GREAT Britain Campaign Director Conrad Bird’s comment; “We don’t talk about place branding or nation branding. We talk about a program to create jobs and economic growth for Britain.”


As there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to performance measurement, comparing and learning from the experiences of others is invaluable. If you’d like to share your approach to performance measurement, I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me at Cfarrow@citynationplace.com

In the meantime, this interview with Gonzalo Brujó, CEO EMEA and Latin America of Interbrand Consultancy, conducted by The Place Brand Observer, also provides useful insight: http://placebrandobserver.com/interview-gonzalo-brujo-interbrand/