There are some who predict that branding, and specifically, the branding of cities, is obsolete because of the disruptive qualities of digital media and that this means there will be no future role for DMOs. Before these naysayers broadly pronounce destination brands and branding dead, maybe they should ensure that they’re focused on the right suspects. I believe that the Digital Age offers unprecedented opportunities and tools that can redefine DMOs and take their destinations to new levels of performance and esteem.
Is the Digital Age really such a threat to destination brands or are weak brands and inadequate brand management the real culprits? I sense the latter has been true of the branding and marketing of many places for quite some time.
It’s important to stress that destination branding is not obsolete or irrelevant for destinations. I might reconsider when I see Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola, or Starbucks shutting down their brand departments. Destination or place branding isn’t easy. Many efforts have not been done well and more focus is definitely needed on using it as the destination’s strategic guidance system. Most importantly, it’s not simply an add-on. And we must recognize that communication is no longer the sole domain of DMOs and city marketers, and yes, customers do have unprecedented influence.
Will Any Breeze Get You There?
The concepts and principles of branding haven’t changed. Branding involves the adoption of a strategic framework and guidance system to differentiate, focus and organize around the unifying idea at the heart of the brand. Some have said that consumers now control brands and DMOs and city marketing organizations are no longer needed. But, is it right to say consumers totally control brands and that there’s no role for DMOs? Can the fragmented actions of destination partners, many of whom are competitors, build a coherent brand identity and communications platform without the coordination of a DMO-type organization?
The second part of this post will appear next week and examines the important role of the brand as a guidance system for the city or destination.