Place branding in the digital world

Nikolaus Bethlen Nikolaus Bethlen Partner, Mid Europa Partners
Place branding in the digital world

More and more, people's perceptions are formed online. But how does this impact place brand strategies? Jose Torres, CEO at Bloom Consulting shared his insights with us on how nation brands are evolving to meet challenges of the 21st century.

CNP: Why do you think it’s important to have a conference that brings together place branding practitioners from across the world to discuss the biggest challenges and emerging opportunities for cities, regions and nations working on their Place Brand strategy?

JT: It is important because it’s an opportunity for everyone to understand the state of the art of the industry, share and learn and together push the sector forward.

CNP: How has your organisation or team’s role changed over the last five years? And what major trend or issue do you predict will impact on your strategy in the coming years?

JT: I think there is one major trend that we will start seeing very soon and that our company is already adjusted to. It concerns the Digital Identity of Nations and Places. Countries, regions and cities now need to start looking at this differently from how they have done it in the past. Today anything that happens in the real world, is also happening in the digital world. This implies a different approach in terms of brand management. I invite you to read more about this in this article.

CNP: Effective Place Branding has always required a long-term view – and increasingly place brand strategies are aiming for more “sustainable” tourism and economic development. How do you define “sustainability” in place branding?

JT: I see sustainability as something holistic. It's about making sure that the place brand strategies we develop, can be successfully implemented and managed in accordance to what is best for countries, regions and cities and for the general society as a whole. This means that anything we do should consider several factors, not just one.
 You can have a "beautiful" brand strategy, but if this is not accepted by local stakeholders, it is just a nice idea that doesn't bring any value to society. Our job is not to "change" or "sell" countries, or cities but rather understand their reality and from there, suggest where they can go and how they can get there.

CNP: Authenticity is perhaps one of the biggest buzzwords in place branding – what do you think is the key to creating an authentic place brand?

JT: Realism and big data.

CNP: Engaging the citizens who live in your city, region or nation has always been a key element of successful Place Branding strategy, but why and how can you engage your diaspora as ambassadors for your place?

JT: This is one of the most important ingredients in any nation or place brand strategy. They have either the capacity to build or destroy the brand. If they don't engage, they won't support the brand strategy in times of change or crisis, nor help build a perception they don't see themselves reflected.

CNP: Do you think it’s important to connect place branding more effectively with placemaking / place shaping?

JT: For cities, absolutely - one mirrors the other. One is about the emotion, the other is about the delivery of that emotion. When we started working with Stockholm in 2018, this was the original objective, making sure that the place making was aligned with the place branding.

CNP: Why is it crucial for places to explore more innovative approaches to funding?

JT: Nation brand projects can be less depending on government changes or political agendas. I think the best example for this is Vibe Israel, this is a really interesting case study. A completely independent organisation who had the initiative to manage Israel's nation brand on its own. They are not supported by the government nor have any interference from the Government. I know many other questions may arise, but I guess you have to attend our session on November 7th, “Developing the (new) Country Brand strategy for Israel”.

CNP: Do you think places could be using data more effectively to inform and shape Place Branding strategy?

JT: Absolutely. Today, thanks to the way global citizen interacts with countries, regions and cities, there is enough data legacy for anyone to analyse many more things beyond perceptions. However, many nations and places already realised that and are using this data to manage their brand.

CNP: Which session (other than your own!) are you most interested in attending at City Nation Place Global?

JT: “Place Branding: a Country viewpoint”, with Thordur Oskarsson, Ambassador, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland.

CNP: If you had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel anywhere – all expenses paid – where would you go?

JT: I spend most of my time travelling and I love it, the downside is that I stay away from my wife and 3 little kids often too much, so I would like to go to a place where they could come as well. They love anything related with animals, specifically birds, fish, insects and reptiles. So, I guess I would take them to Iguaçu falls (the Argentinean side) and Costa Rica and hopefully make them fall in love with nature even more. I think this is the best way to protect nature, by falling in love with it.

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