Destination Branding Pitfalls

February 15, 2017

I used to think that positioning was the trickiest part of place and destination branding. However, I now believe that getting the RFP or Expression of Interest, scope of work and agency selection processes right in the first place are probably the most problematic and can most easily send a place branding project off the rails from the start.

Many communities do not fully understand the nuances of place branding and are somewhat tentative and imprecise in how they ask for the services required to undertake the process. Or they have been misled into thinking that all they need is a new logo, tagline or advertising campaign theme. This view has been verified in recent months as we notice a steady flow of poor outcomes for communities. They announce weak or bland positioning and cheerleading taglines that are only designed to make locals feel warm and fuzzy, but are doomed to fail with external audiences.

We have seen situations where advertising, web design and communications agencies have successfully pitched for the development of place branding strategies. Unfortunately, few of these agencies have any tourism, placemaking, community development or city brand planning credentials, but that didn’t stop them from being appointed to their first jobs in the field. Branding is strategic!

Yes, creativity and designs are important. But more important is establishing a strategic guidance toolkit to inform your operations, communications and experience delivery. We have even seen cases where cities have simultaneously issued RFPs for web design and brand planning. Of course, they then merged their requirements and selected what they considered to be the best agency to tackle the combined assignments. That’s right. The painter will design the house as well as paint it!

Here is an article in our Library, (Don’t Hire a Painter if You Need an Architect) provides good advice, which, along with the blog by Derrick Daye of the Blake Project provides some valuable considerations for communities about to start their brand planning.

 

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