Place Branding: Solving the measurement challenge

Every organization that engages with City Nation Place is uniquely different – either in the scope of their brief, or their funding and resources, or in the particular challenges and opportunities that their place offers.  What unites them is the belief that proactively understanding and managing the reputation, perceptions, or assets of your city, nation, or destination can deliver economic advantages that will benefit your citizens.

The challenge is how to measure the impact of this proactive management – how to prove the efficacy of your place brand and marketing strategy. Often it’s the absence of a place brand or marketing organisation that is most noticed: a lack of investment that leads to a slump in tourism or investment, or a siphoning away of talent and skills.

Responding to the suggestions of our Advisory Group, City Nation Place has carried out a research study to help place brand and marketing teams benchmark how they are measuring and demonstrating the impact of their work.  Despite the different organisational structures, focus, and budgets of the organisations who participated in the qualitative interviews and quantitative research survey, the resultant Report provides useful observations and opportunities to learn. 

Demonstrating value through research

There are four ways place brand and marketing organisations are leveraging research and data to demonstrate the value of they do…

  • By becoming a provider and interpreter of trend and economic data to support the policy and strategy of all organisations working to build economic growth and reputation

  • By measuring the impact of specific campaigns or initiatives implemented to promote attractiveness, reputation, quality of life, and to attract visitors, talent, or investment

  • By providing an improved understanding of how the city, nation, or place is perceived by its own citizens and in the outside world, of how these perceptions can be improved, and of how the brand and marketing strategy is impacting on these perceptions

  • By building in assessments and feedback to understand how stakeholders, government and citizens view the work and effectiveness of the own organization and reacting accordingly

Our research suggests that most organisations have a strong focus on the first two opportunities. Many are investing in the third, but not always with the confidence that they are using the data effectively. Few of the organisations we surveyed focus on the fourth.

Evolving your KPIs to be more effective in your strategies

Both the interviews and the survey we carried out demonstrate that place brand and marketing organisations are confident about measuring the specifics [marketing campaign performance, economic data, etc.] but are evolving approaches to gathering data and research on the wider impact of place brand and marketing strategies on their citizens. With 44% of our respondents setting KPIs around improving the quality of life for citizens, several of those interviews provide insights on how strategies are evolving to track this KPI. Destination Canada are leading the way with their launch of a Wealth and Wellbeing Index, and The Municipality of The Hague team carry out a bi-annual research project, “like a thermometer we put into the city” as Laurens Roes, the city brand manager puts it, which measures performance against 6 clear KPIs: quality of life, economic performance, reputation, city pride, social cohesion, and the happiness of citizens.

All of our quantitative survey respondents see the value of citizen perception studies – either investing directly, or through collaboration, or wishing to invest if budget were available. And yet only 36% gather feedback from their citizens on how their own organization is perceived. Generally, the organisations we spoke to do not place a strong focus on measuring how their teams and their work is perceived by stakeholders. There’s a potential Catch-22 here. Better management of the impact of place and marketing – and of how the organisations doing that work are perceived – could enable more funding. More funding would enable better measurement. Where organisations are able to articulate their objectives and their value more clearly, they can close this circle. Learning from other places, improving your own team’s understanding of the potential of place branding and where you can best add value, are all key to articulating that purpose in a more engaging way.

The quantitative survey was conducted in October 2023, with 85 responses. Fifteen qualitative interviews were carried out, and the Report includes summary articles of our conversations with: Brand Tasmania, Cape Town Tourism, Destination Canada; Economic Development Regina, Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development, Imagen de Chile, LA Tourism & Convention Bureau, London & Partners, Municipality of The Hague, New Zealand Story, and Stockholm Business Region.  

The Report also includes expert partner perspectives from Resonance Consultancy, Brand Finance, and Zartico.

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