We are living in the most competitive time in history, where cities of all sizes find themselves competing more fiercely for relevance, respect and reputation. In the USA alone there are approximately 20,000 incorporated cities, 3,400 counties, and myriad downtowns and suburbs clamoring for attention. Many are trying to compete with an image that is out of date, bland or inaccurate. These images, whether accurate or not are the reality for people who may be searching for a place to visit, live, or invest.
The biggest challenge facing many places is taking control of their identity and reputation which may have been unmanaged for a long time. Without a clear vision or a place branding strategy, a city may bounce from one set of messages to another without considering what the place should be known for.
Place branding involves much more than a new logo and snappy slogan. It should provide a framework and toolkit for differentiating, communicating and focusing the location’s competitive and distinctive identity. It must be grounded in truth and reality, and not wishful thinking and hype. This means that what cities are promising must be met or exceeded when people are actually experiencing the place. Ambitious places wanting to avoid being Anytown, USA should first resolve a few basic questions:
- What do we want to be known for?
- How can we stand out from the crowd and be more competitive?
- What thoughts and feelings do we want to come to mind when people are exposed to our name?
- How can we build and preserve our heritage and authenticity?
Great Leaders Lead to Great Places
Many communities are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to proactively shape and influence what the world thinks of them and not allow inaction, the media or competitors to define who they are. They must resist developers and corporations far removed from their communities who would like to plant their cookie cutter designs and architecture in their towns. An important starting point is for city leaders to recognize that there is a direct link between the city’s distinctive image, respect and reputation and its attractiveness as a place to visit, live, invest, and study.
An even greater realization for some is that inaction is not a viable option if they genuinely want to display their distinctive character and improve local prosperity. Unfortunately, while many cities and regions are attempting to avoid Anytown USA status, many simply settle for cookie cutter architecture, a new logo and new design for their website. They totally miss the transformative power of differentiation through branding.
Part Three will be published next week.
Produced by: Total Destination Marketing
Best Selling Book: Destination Branding for Small Cities
TDM can help your city stand out from the other choices with a place brand strategy.
Best-selling Book: Destination Branding for Small Cities