Place branding on a budget – here’s what you need to know.

Place brand and marketing teams often find themselves operating on a tight budget. And when tasked ­with promoting your place – whether for tourism, investment, talent attraction, or to build civic pride – the key is in making sure that you’re getting the maximum value out of every pound that you invest.

What, then, should you be doing to stretch your marketing budget? Eight of our expert partners shared their advice to help you deliver a bigger punch with fewer resources.

Think outside the box.

To maximise the impact of place marketing efforts while working with limited resources, we've honed in on a few key strategies. First, use data analytics to guide decisions, ensuring efficient resource allocation. Prioritize impactful campaigns over numerous ones and stay agile, adapting to each place's changing dynamics. Transform locals into ambassadors; share their authentic stories, shaping your place unique appeal at no extra cost. Think out of the box, launch sponsorship programs and crowdfunding campaigns specifically for marketing initiatives, unlock the potential of public spaces by transforming them into revenue-generating venues. Lastly, approach private sector companies that align with the values and identity of the place. Seek out public-private partnerships where both parties can benefit, such as collaborations that promote sustainability, diversity, or social impact initiatives.

Manolis Psarros, CEO & Chief Strategist, TOPOSOPHY



Focus your KPIs on what matters most to your business.

First and foremost, you need to define what success is and ensure that it aligns with your business objectives. Then choose Key Performance Indicators that are measurable and directly align with your definition of success. From there, you can start looking for partners that can deliver on the KPIs that you’ve identified as being the most important. There are so many metrics available that it can be easy to become overwhelmed, but you need to look past the noise and focus on the metrics that actually matter. If the business objective is driving economic impact within a destination and your marketing partner can measure that, it shouldn’t matter what the bounce rate, video view rate, clickthrough rate or time on site is.

Sam Lauer, Director, Customer Success, Americas, Adara, a RateGain Company


Adopt an ‘always-on’ approach for maximum impact.

As you plan your marketing strategies for the year, always-on marketing can help with two things: efficiency and budget. Destinations traditionally plan media in “burst flights”—campaigns that run for less than 21 days—designed to support specific marketing strategies. An always-on marketing strategy takes a more dynamic and ongoing approach, allowing you to support the high seasons and capture demand during the shoulder seasons. With always-on marketing, you mix real-time traveler intent data, audience segmentation, and personalized messaging to capitalize on the full scope of the travel buying journey.

We found that destinations running always-on campaigns had an incredible 328% higher action rate compared to burst flights. Additionally, 92% of always-on campaigns with Sojern exceeded campaign goals compared to just 58% with burst flights. We share the details on how destinations are leveraging this approach in our latest eBook, The Destination Marketer’s Guide to Always-On Marketing.

Kerrigan Flynn, Content Marketing Manager, Sojern


Empower your biggest advocates to become ambassadors for your place.

When it comes to place marketing, my contention would be that that thinking about budget and spend is the wrong place to start. How many stakeholders does your place have a relationship with? How good is that relationship? They can be your salesforce and with a good relationship they’ll help promote your place for free. Remember, they have the contacts, networks and credibility that can reach people and organisations that no place marketing body will be able to access. Spend a limited amount giving them the tools to sell your place; maximum impact, minimum spend.

John Till, Founding Director, thinkingplace


Collaborate with your private sector to tell the story of your place.

The best way for places to amplify their brand and their budget is to partner with the private sector. The collective reach and budget of private partners is much larger than that of any place marketing organization. Working together to communicate common messages serves to help build brand awareness and equity much more quickly and effectively than the organization could ever do on their own.

Chris Fair, CEO, Resonance Consultancy


Identify what’s driving success and double down in those areas.

Big expectations, small budgets. We have three guidelines for doing more with less. First, target your top performing channels and go deep on each before progressing to the next. Making an impact on 3-4 venues is better than impacting nothing on 10 or more. Second, consider what will allow you to be in market for a longer duration versus making a one-off, “big splash.” If it’s one or the other, consistency beats intensity. Lastly, avoid the lure of mirroring the tactics of big brands – they have large budgets, so they play by different rules. Resourcefulness and impact are not mutually exclusive.

Steve Duncan, Managing Director, C Studios

Audit your marketing to understand where you’re wasting money – and effort.

Conducting a marketing budget audit is crucial to identify and eliminate any unnecessary expenses or leakages. By thoroughly examining the budget, it becomes possible to optimize spending and allocate resources more effectively. From impressions and engagement to travel bookings or conversions, clear KPIs should be established and actually tracked to measure success. It is important to evaluate each marketing activity and determine whether it contributes to moving any of these KPIs forward. If an activity does not align with the identified KPIs, it should be eliminated to focus resources on the most impactful strategies.

We utilize a comprehensive one-view dashboard (called TroveTrends) that integrates client data, including digital, social, and marketing conversion data. This enables the team to track and measure return on investment (ROI) accurately. By constantly monitoring performance and making data-driven decisions, places can ensure that their marketing efforts deliver a bigger punch despite having fewer resources.

Danny Cohanpour, CEO & Founder, Trove Tourism

Re-use existing assets with a targeted media strategy.

The biggest bang from a limited buck requires laser focus on production and media. On the production side, maybe you don’t need to hire a photographer, videographer, talent, makeup, wardrobe, and so on. There could be diamonds in the rough of your photo and video asset library. Through colour correction and other methods, you can unify diverse assets into a campaign that appears cohesive. On the media side, social and digital afford the most efficient ways to reach as many people as possible. And it won’t be spray and pray—it’ll be super targeted.

Jessica McCarthy, President & Co-Founder, Joy Riot

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