Place to place collaboration: Finding connections that add value to your place brand

A rising tide lifts all boats – and collaboration between places can be the key to reaching a much broader audience with your place brand or place marketing strategy. But what is the key to building and leveraging a mutually successful collaboration? We reached out to a dozen industry experts to discover how neighbouring cities, regions, or countries could join forces to enhance the overall appeal of their respective places.


Create a narrative of inclusivity.

Cultivating collaboration among destinations is like creating an ensemble of mutual success. Through joint branding initiatives, regions such as Benelux and the Alps, and on a larger scale, the European Union, can unlock a reservoir of shared resources to increase their touristic appeal. The EU is the mother of all brands, representing unity through diversity. As they embrace collaboration and resource sharing, these destinations not only broaden their appeal, but also create a narrative of inclusivity and collective prosperity. The more they collaborate, the greater their success on the global stage.

Jose Torres, CEO, Nation and Place Branding Global Director, Bloom Consulting


Stop thinking about your neighbours as competitors.

It starts with mindset. One of the first things we address with clients is shifting the perception of viewing a neighbouring city or region as purely a competitor. Instead, we help clients shift that mindset to viewing them as both an audience and an asset. When you view them as an audience, you can lean into what your destination offers that they don't to deliver a message that encourages their residents and visitors to come to your destination. When you view them as an asset, you can begin to collaborate and see how together you create a fuller and more rounded-out itinerary, creating a greater draw to your collective destination than you each would have on your own.

Ryan Short, Co-founder, CivicBrand


Don’t be constrained by geographical boundaries – collaboration with neighbouring attractions or organisations can be key to developing your place.

Places are generally very insular and in thinking about their brand don’t get past their artificial boundaries. Place branding is all about ‘fuzzy geography’ and in developing the brand it’s important to hear the voices of surrounding places and institutions especially universities. A place is determined by the assets that can be associated with it and these can be a distance away but still an important part of the brand narrative. Developing ongoing relationships with visitor attractions, universities and similar adds to your proposition and reaching out is fundamentally important to developing your place. They can help with skills development, offer extension, workforce supply, housing provision and more; always remember your place is not an island!

John Till, Director, thinkingplace


Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking all collaboration has to be formal.

When there are common values, common audiences and geographic proximity, the whole voice of multiple regions can be greater than the sum of its parts. Regional collaborations are especially useful in reaching international markets where awareness is often lower and perception neutral. With these ingredients in place, joining forces with like-minded destinations especially through activations, events and digital campaigns can break through the noise with more impact. But don’t forget to have some fun with it too – we’re a fan of the organic, semi-competitive nature of the Baltic capitals, which have a fun, sparring-like dialogue on social which makes them all seem like the kind of people I want to meet. Collaborations don’t always have to be so formal.

Steve Duncan, Managing Director, C Studios


Take the bird’s eye view.

Businesses, visitors and talent don’t care about regional or country boundaries when they are looking at locations to expand, visit or live, so it’s smart for neighboring destinations to collaborate. Take the birds-eye view and help your target audiences see the opportunities that exist across a broader swath of geography. Map out cross-border tourism itineraries. Promote important assets like ports, airports and rail lines that may exist outside of your area. Share compelling photography. Paint the picture of work and lifestyle options available in urban, suburban and rural areas by looking at the bigger picture.

Dariel Y. Curren, Executive Vice President, Development Counsellors International 


Learn from others who are leading the way with collaborative initiatives.

This is a powerful strategy that should be part of more place marketing playbooks. For visitors, it’s all about flow. Destinations can embrace neighbours who offer complementary, experiences. Nearby cities can leverage their proximity – Stockholm and Malmo are prime examples of a 2-for-1 proposition. Farm-to-table is another perfect pairing. Meet the growers, experience the terroir, then see those ingredients transformed into an urban dining occasion. In Canada’s Niagara peninsula, the city of St. Catharines is partnering with its local wine country, Niagara Benchlands, to promote a welcoming blend of urban arts, music, culture, and hospitality with the iconic trails, farmsteads and award-winning vineyards tucked along its scenic byways. A winning combination for all.

Jeannette Hanna, Chief Strategist, Trajectory


Develop a joint brand for your region.

Rather than trying to gain a competitive edge over their neighbours, adopting a collaborative approach can lead to compelling partnerships that enhance destination appeal and optimise resources. Establishing a regional DMO is a key strategy for collectively reaching visitor goals by leveraging shared attributes. This unified brand emphasises common values, history, or natural beauty while preserving each destination's uniqueness. Marketing efforts can spotlight multi-destination travel, appealing to tourists eager to explore multiple locations. Moreover, smaller destinations can benefit from pooled resources and collaborative initiatives within this framework, fostering mutual growth.

Danny Cohanpour, CEO, Trove Tourism Development Advisors


Celebrate your shared physical assets as a first step to opening the door to more collaboration.

There can often be social, cultural, and historical tensions between bordering regions or countries. So joint initiatives by neighbouring jurisdictions can often present both operational and political challenges. However, if we look to nature for inspiration, our mountains and forests generally straddle boundaries, and our rivers often even dictate the border line itself. By spotlighting the joint appreciation of these shared natural assets, we can start to reframe perspectives, focus on commonalities, and explore other shared place characteristics to celebrate and showcase to the world.

Chris Armstrong, Senior Project Specialist, TOPOSOPHY


Create a pool of shared marketed assets.

Effective collaboration requires a shared vision, mutual goals, and the ability to harmonise diverse offerings, into a shared cohesive message. Collaborators should be pooling resources and cross-promoting to create joint branding initiatives, amplifying appeal, and offering visitors diverse experiences. This strategy enhances visibility, expands the potential visitor audience, and maximises economic benefits.

To do this, place brands should employ an online brand toolkit to develop, manage, and share a pool of common marketing assets. These digital solutions can be established as either a co-branded and co-funded toolkit, or alternatively some vendors offer the ability to integrate two or more independent toolkits, each managed and funded independently by collaborating place brands. These shared content pools help destinations efficiently manage and distribute marketing materials, resulting in cohesive messaging, lower costs, shorter time to market, better story telling, larger audiences, a stronger regional brand, a boost in the region's attractiveness, and ultimately a better economic return.

David Vaassen, Founder & CEO, Brandkit


Gain more exposure for your marketing spend.

Destinations can work together with neighboring regions or countries to create joint branding initiatives, make the most of shared resources, and enhance the overall appeal of the destination through collaborative marketing campaigns. A successful example of this type of joint branding initiative was the “Greekend” campaign for Athens and Thessaloniki, where the DMO for Greece partnered with Amadeus to promote travel to both cities. Regions can also pool their budgets or share data and insights to make more informed decisions. By actively collaborating and combining resources, neighboring destinations can increase their exposure and achieve greater success than they might have through individual initiatives.

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


Throw a party.

Or another way of putting it, host an event that highlights regional character. It could be a day, a week, or a month long. Get buy-in from those around you, including travel, hospitality, and event promotion vendors. While your destination may contain many unique idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, chances are you share culinary, musical, or historic heritage with your neighbours. Come together to celebrate your commonalities. In the process, your neighbour’s brand ambassadors will be exposed to your brand, and vice versa.

John Armstrong, Chief Creative Officer, Joy Riot


Leverage events as a forum to incubate collaborative partnerships.

Regional collaboration is an excellent way for communities to come together to enhance a destination's appeal. And, since businesses, professionals and visitors are typically considering multiple locations within a city or state, collaborating regionally makes sense from a content perspective too. We've seen regions partner effectively on national and international public relations campaigns, tours for site selection consultants, as well as major trade shows such as Select USA or the Paris Air Show. To get the most bang for their buck, destinations frequently work with many local partners to host regional and state events, build and maintain data-rich websites and amplify social media content sharing.

April Mason, President, Violet PR

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