I am a keen observer of place branding and I have been privileged to help several places brand themselves. Here are some of my observations regarding municipality branding:
- Most places do a terrible job of branding themselves. There are many contributing factors. Many places do not have ample budgets to include rigorous research in their branding efforts. Some places hire branding companies that use the same positioning and tag lines for multiple municipal clients. Municipalities have diverse constituencies that must be included in the process. It is difficult for larger municipalities to focus on one or two differentiating benefits when they have so many assets that appeal to different groups of people. Sometimes there is a conflict between the more limited geographic boundaries of the hiring municipality and how the general public views the metropolitan area boundaries. Many municipalities do not have a designated person whose role it is to brand and promote the place. Some marketing agencies jump right to a tagline and ad campaign without doing the important brand research and positioning work.
- Many municipalities choose catchy but totally meaningless tag lines.
- First, municipalities need to understand to which people they are most likely to appeal. This includes looking at demographics and psychographics. Lifestage and family formation are important components in this mix.
- Competitive analysis is a key part of branding places.
- Municipalities should not spend too much time thinking about their weaknesses. They should focus on their assets when determining what their brand should stand for.
- We help places understand their different clusters of assets and how important each cluster is to different target audiences. Through asset clustering, we can help places determine the most powerful umbrella brand positioning and messaging.
- It is important to involve all key stakeholders in the branding process. The process requires lots of informal influencing with multiple constituencies over time. It also requires outstanding consensus building skills/facilitation.
- Every potential brand position must be evaluated against three criteria: (1) how emotionally compelling it is, (2) how unique it is among competing places and (3) how believable it is for the place in question.
- While a place's brand must be compelling to all audiences including residents, visitors, businesses and event planners, first and foremost, it must be compelling to current and potential residents. If it appeals to them, there will be a much higher likelihood that it can be made compelling to the other audiences.
Here are links to some of my other place branding blog posts: