I really agree with the comments by Jonathan Bernstein, executive director for brand strategy for Interbrand Singapore in the Cebu Sun Star, who said “Out of all the brands that need to be developed, destination branding is the most challenging.” He added, “Many people confuse a brand for a logo, a tagline or an advertising campaign. With products, companies only need to show the economic value for the consumer. But with places are much more complex.”
He explained so many things influence a destination, such as heritage, history, food and the people while there are many things beyond the control of the destination’s brand developers.
For Bernstein, a brand is a reputation. “Everything you do will build or take away from your reputation.” Bernstein said a brand helps to hold everything together and will serve as a guide for the long-term, medium-term and short-term direction a place wants to take.
I have advocated in my book, Destination Branding for Small Cities – Second Edition that place branding is about establishing a framework for prioritization and should contribute directly to increased effectiveness and efficiency in how cities and downtowns compete and present themselves. It enables places to focus on their differentiating strengths and leverage the combined power of stakeholder resources to establish their competitive identity. However, it is not easy getting to this point. Despite the many successes there are some failures that could have been avoided had participants recognized that branding places is very different to branding consumer products.
The path to revealing a place brand usually involves a multitude of stakeholders and departs from that generally followed for branding corporate products and services. One reason for the variation is the composite nature of places which are a compilation of many independent and competing businesses, products, and experiences that are owned and managed by many different organizations with no single management team or custodian.
Part Two will be posted Wednesday.