We are living in an era in which some brands like Facebook and iPad became enduring household names overnight. On the other hand, some have soared and then crashed just as quickly. Destinations and cities are different. Their identities and images have usually been shaped over a very long period, they almost always have small destination marketing budgets, need to overcome generations of preconceived thoughts and opinions, and must mobilize myriad stakeholders to adopt and manage the brand accurately and consistently.
It’s difficult to change perceptions and views in the short term. After all, it possibly took decades, maybe even centuries, to form the city’s current image. And we know that the “old brain” is much stronger and inflexible than the “new brain” when it comes to replacing old images and stereotypes. For instance, we know of many post-industrial cities whose smoke stack industries closed decades ago, yet those cities are still regarded by some as grimy industrial cities. Similarly, if a city wants to reposition or rebrand itself to be known for something different to the past, outsiders won’t catch on to this overnight without extensive and sustained publicity.
Big budgets and better communications alone will not turn around the city’s image if its reality is standing in the way. It could be unattractive public spaces, crime, outdated infrastructure or lack of cooperation between businesses that is holding the place back. Today, place branding can engage urban planners, architects and placemaking specialists as readily as tourism and economic development marketers.
Branding can, and does, bring short-term benefits but the true value is long-term and cumulative. Successful place and destination branding is achieved with many small victories, again and again. City image is the result of thousands of influences and influencers over an extended period. On the other hand, a Grand Slam approach to branding on the basis of one big advertising campaign is a sure fire way to blow the budget with little long-term impact. True success will only come from the consistency of messages and outstanding experiences from many sources hitting their mark again, and again, and again.
The benefits of destination marketing and city branding are considerable, however they will not materialize overnight because it will take time for the brand to gain traction within the community, among key partners and with key markets. From the outset, you must be sure that the objectives are clear and realistic, programs are well funded and that there is an understanding of what branding is and isn’t. This includes ensuring that no one expects a magic wand. And when the brand strategy is finally revealed, that’s when the hard work really begins!
© Destination Branding for Small Cities – Second Edition: Baker
NEW: Destination Branding for Small Cities - Second Edition by Bill Baker is drawing praise from business leaders, place branders and practitioners worldwide. It’s a must read primer that demystifies city branding and provides affordable, proven tools, templates and checklists to build a successful destination and place brands. Worldwide sales via Amazon.com