100 days in the life of The Place Brand Observer: Lessons learned
100 days are a long time, one should think. Truth is, time flies when building up a web portal and business. So let’s pause for a moment and reflect on place branding – this broad, interdisciplinary, emerging research field and increasingly popular activity.
Here are 4 lessons learned during the first 100 days of PlaceBrandObserver.com, our new info portal and blog dedicated to credible, authentic place brands and the responsible, sustainable branding of cities, regions, countries, nations, and destinations:
1. Forget about storytelling: Authentic brands are all about ‘storydoing’!
Perhaps our favourite story so far comes from Ty Montague, author and marketing guru. He argues: “The old way to market a business was storytelling. But in today’s world, simply communicating your story in the hope that customers will listen is no longer enough. Instead, your story must be expressed through every action your organisation takes.” In our view, storydoing (which could be translated as walking the talk) is just as important for an authentic place brand as it has become for branding in the corporate world.
Take New Zealand, for instance, a country which has been telling its story of a 100% Pure, clean and green food exporter and tourist destination for a long time. Yet, the country’s green brand credibility is put at risk by certain environmental issues, such as river pollution caused by New Zealand’s ever-growing dairy industry, or declarations by the NZ Government to follow rather than lead global efforts aimed at mitigating greenhouse gases. Storydoing means living up to the espoused brand values. (Here’s the link to the story)
2. Place branders, don’t mess with the people’s brand!
Then there was the article by David F Coates (Ion Brand Design), in which he calls for more civic engagement in place branding. He said: “Politicians and bureaucrats need to see that a brand in many ways is what defines a community. It is the essence of that community. It goes far, far beyond a logo. We as design strategists are anthropologists. Our role is to dig in and help reveal stories, culture, folklore, historical origins and physical characteristics by engaging and listening to citizens and stakeholders in whose minds and hearts a brand already exists.” (Here’s the link to the story)
3. Brands, trust and the transparency (r)evolution
In the same vein, we featured New Zealand marketing and branding expert Mark di Somma, who urges us to be very careful with making false promises. He said: “It goes without saying that hollow claims hurt brands when they are unearthed. Suddenly, a brand isn’t just questionable, it’s also vulnerable (in terms of reputation) and potentially liable (legally). The repercussions are not new. What has changed in the last ten years is the likelihood of being discovered.” As he puts it, ethical criteria are on the rise: “Brands that look to keep information back, that re-touch their claims to make them look more appealing and/or who fail to align margin to value will find their products under public gaze and themselves under increasing pressure to retract.” We certainly share Mark’s sentiment. (Here’s the link to the story)
4. Why mega cities need place branding to thrive
Lastly, just last week we featured Peter Knapp and his call in the Marketing Magazine for place branding as a way to make our growing cities more liveable. He warns that the mere scale of urban growth and development currently experienced especially in many cities puts us at risk of becoming alienated from our living and working environments. Place branding can help make cities and suburbs more liveable by giving them a unique identity. (Here’s the link to the story)
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Florian is the founder and editor of PlaceBrandObserver.com. His educational background is in tourism management (BA), sustainable development (MA), journalism (Dipl.) and management communication (PhD). He lives with his partner in Wellington, New Zealand.
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