Last week I was reminded of the fragility of place brands and how they need to foster deep community roots from the start of their brand planning process. The marketing manager of a small destination marketing organization (DMO) told me that his city had completed a brand strategy during the past two years which had been well received. But with the arrival of a new Executive Director, they had abandoned the strategy. Fortunately, this was not one of our clients.
This discussion brought home to me that from time to time pivotal people who are essential to the vitality of a destination brand move on. They might be the head of the tourism organization, elected officials, board members, staff or key partners. The result can be that their replacement wants to “do things their way”.
For this reason, it’s important from the earliest stages to ensure that there is continuity in understanding, knowledge, energy and support in regard to the brand strategy. Of course, it goes without saying that community brands for destinations have to be built following a highly consultative and transparent process. The brand does not belong to any one person or organization. And a new Executive Director should not be empowered to arbitrarily reject a strategy that community members and key stakeholders were engaged in for about eight months. The marketing manager told me that there is now deep cynicism among stakeholders and staff toward starting a new brand planning process just two years after the last effort.
A brand strategy is not the same as an advertising or marketing campaign. The advertising should be designed to reflect the brand and will change from time to time. However, the brand should be based on the enduring essence of the place and not be changed as frequently as an advertising theme. It’s a strategic toolkit and needs to be given the opportunity to develop deep roots, resonance and loyalty.
Importantly, a place brand belongs to everyone in the community to a greater or lesser extent. It should never be established in such a way that it is reliant on one individual.
Sponsored by: The Essentials of Small City Branding