Destination Branding Takes More Than a Magic Wand

I recently had a conversation with the president of a Midwest DMO at a conference who was being pressured by some of his lodging partners because the brand strategy, which had been adopted three months earlier, had not generated an increase in business for them. While we at TDM didn’t develop this strategy, it did seem to be a robust and credible brand strategy for this small city.

While there may be some short-term increases in visitation, the real benefits of branding won’t be apparent overnight. If hoteliers wanted to increase heads in beds, perhaps they should have invested more in their tactical marketing and sales. Even then, it may take time to break through the clutter of competing messages, build awareness and convert interest into actual bookings, unless they are offering deep discounts.

We are living in an era in which some brands like Uber and Air B&B have become household names virtually overnight. Cities are different. Their identity and image has usually been established over a very long period, in some cases for hundreds of years. They almost always have small marketing budgets, need to overcome generations of preconceived thoughts and opinions, and must mobilize myriad stakeholders, many of whom are competitors, to adopt and use the brand accurately and consistently.

The benefits from city branding, if done well, are considerable. From the outset, you must be sure that the objectives are clear and realistic, and that programs are well funded. Partners also need an understanding of what branding is and isn’t. This includes ensuring that no one is expecting the new brand to be a magic wand. After all, when the brand strategy is finally launched, that’s when the hard work really begins!

Produced by: Total Destination Marketing

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