What is Place Branding?

What is Place Branding? If we stop and think of our favourite place, be it a city street, a theme park or a district, a common thread exists – we feel a sense of ownership of it. This sense of ownership is established because the place creates an emotional reaction in us. This reaction is based on both the promise the place makes and the experience it delivers. The two things must connect.

A brand’s personality carries the promise beyond the physical place and connects it to the physical experience. This only happens when the brand is embedded in the place itself –and truly reflects the DNA and character of the place it is not just as a logo on signage, but embedded within every touch point. It’s not just physical, it’s a feeling and a meaning that is authentic not manufactured.

Connecting promise to place and creating an authentic meaning – this is the art of great destination branding.

The best brands are often described as an inside-out concept;

Brand drives product and story, not simply articulate it.

Interestingly, the most common reason for the failure of place brands has been identified as an inconsistent vision for the place, which led to different interpretations of the story.

Getting everyone to share in a compelling and exciting vision for the place is vital. So, this is fundamentally the job of place branding; to ensure a single version of the truth is told in every story about the place.

Stories must connect.

Stories are powerful things – we’ve been using them to communicate for over 27,000 years. People react better to stories than to facts. When we hear facts, only two parts of our brain are engaged – the parts that quite literally process language. We’re not suggesting that facts aren’t important, only that stories engage more parts of the brain – senses are activated and we connect with the storyteller.

Stories create emotion and brands are emotional things.

Stories allow the teller to plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listener’s brain, which in turn responds by relating what it’s hearing to your existing experience. This means that stories become personal and relevant in our minds as we hear them.

We therefore believe great place brands are not manufactured – they are grown.

An organic place brand should be inspired by its environment, absorbing its surroundings and built to grow and change over time.

A successful place brand is more than just a logo, it has to be embedded within every touch point, providing genuine authenticity and enabling a strong emotional connection.

So for us, the art and skill of place branding lies in connecting promise to place and creating authenticity.

It’s easy to see that if (for example) developers, architects, agents and marketers don’t line up their thinking; the expectation they create won’t fit the reality of what they want to deliver. This will not help to ensure you have created a strong, sustainable, brand. Regeneration projects must therefore create brand stories that take into account the past, present and future of a community. The story must be about how the new is integrated with the existing, and why this is a good thing.

A three-point definition of the role of place brands;

  1. Define the place (story) and what it stands for, its vision
  2. Unite all stakeholders in delivery of the vision through shared values
  3. Project the definition and values to attract the right customers

 

Interrelated has a decade of experience in destination branding and, as brand strategists serving the industry, has contributed to much of the best thinking out there today. In putting this blog together we need to reference a couple of key sources connected to the thoughts we are sharing. This blog has been compiled by Mark Wing of Interrelated. However it is also informed by thinking we developed in 2016 with Tim Lewis of SBR and in 2014 with Richard Sunderland of Heavenly when we supported them on a project for GPE.

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