One of the great challenges for many places when it comes to place branding is to not become absolutely boring and bland in an effort to please disparate voices within the community. It’s so easy (and quicker) to just settle on the warm and fuzzy, right?
The task is even harder when the community opts to define the brand themselves without outside help. Problems start to arise when no-one is pushing to move beyond the generic, threshold qualities that every ambitious city must have to play the place marketing game. Too many choose to stop when they reach a concept that pleases a block of stakeholders. Sometimes it’s as trite as the old standby, “a great place to live, work and play” or a variation on that theme.
Too frequently these cities and regions end up with a logo and tagline based on qualities that are irrelevant to external customers or can be easily exceeded by other places. Trying to define a brand that everyone in the community is going to like is a sure-fire path to revealing a bland brand. These brands attract no attention, don’t resonate with markets and are a poor imitation of thousands of other meaningless places.
All successful place brands have an imaginative edge or tension that resonates with target audiences, but may sometimes not be liked by some locals. The important issue to examine is the nature and substance of their dislike. To be different and stand apart in ways that are meaningful can be a challenge for some community leaders. The critical point that they must keep in mind is that the brand is being orchestrated for external audiences to meet specific and sometimes economic objectives.
A strong, sustainable place brand demands leaders who exert strong leadership don’t simply pander to local interests. They must be truly customer-focused and help locals understand the brand and its benefits to them. Diluting the brand in an effort to please vocal locals at the expense of target customers is the best path to a spectacularly bland brand.
Part Two will be posted next week.
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