When we talk to people about branding, companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s most often surface. They are major worldwide brands - no doubt. We do a lot of place branding (also called destination branding, city branding or community branding). It’s amazing how often people want to apply the same rules of branding to this process. But it is different and I’ll give you four reasons why.
Four reasons place branding is the most difficult branding project in marketing.
1. No one owns a community name. Ever thought about that? If someone misuses the name McDonald’s, you can be sure an attorney will be involved. When someone misuses a city’s name, there’s nothing anyone can do. And even when the use of a city’s name is for good efforts, it’s aimed at different objectives. Several organizations in your community use part of the same name. Most often the chamber, the city, the tourism organization, the economic development voice, the downtown groups and dozens of other independent businesses. So there’s lots of singing going on but are they singing a similar song?
2. No one organization owns the responsibility of branding the entire community. It’s one thing to ask community leaders and businesses to get behind the idea of making a city’s competitive with a strong marketing effort, but if they give the thumbs up then go back to their day jobs, more than likely little action occurs. If a community wants their branding efforts to take root, a new habit of purposeful meeting and organization must occur. Someone must own a branding effort. This is very difficult to do. Egos must be cast aside and the community must be the hero.
3. No one person or organization controls the product. Can you imagine not having control over the delivery of a product, or the quality of a product? That is what every city in the U.S. is facing each day.
4. Logos, taglines and ad campaigns do not create an experience. Yes, they do promote and promise an experience, but nothing can fill the place of the things you do and the way a place makes you feel. Think about the things we all brag about after visiting a community. We talk about where we ate, things we saw and things we heard. We take pictures and share with everyone on Facebook. We don’t go back and brag (or even remember) the logo or tagline. Nothing is more powerful in the creation of a brand than a memorable experience (good or bad).
Okay, it’s difficult. So now what?
Knowing and accepting these obstacles allows you to create a process for dealing with them. Most importantly, it’s not one person’s job. It cannot be limited to a single person or entity. Everyone in a community delivers your product in some way; therefore, the more that are a part of branding your community, the more successful you will be in the effort. This was discussed in an earlier blog about how “Everyone’s Sings in Music City.”
For those of you in charge of leading such an effort, do not be intimidated. Just don’t try to do it alone!