Thursday, October 30, 2014

Branding Municipalities

Branding municipalities is an interesting and complex activity. The target audiences are myriad and disparate, including at least the following:
  • Residents and potential residents
  • Businesses and potential businesses
  • Tourists/visitors
  • Meeting and an event planners (including convention planners and major sporting event organizers)
  • Transients (people passing through on their way to somewhere else)
  • Corporate commercial traffic

Each of these audiences has its own distinct issues and needs. And, there are typically separate place-based organizations established to market to each of these market’s needs – visitors & convention bureaus, economic development councils, business improvement districts, etc. Add mayor’s offices and district, county, provincial, state, regional and national entities, business leaders, cultural institution leaders, etc. and the stakeholder groups mushroom into a large mix of potentially competing points of view. This is why carefully orchestrating a branding project and facilitating consensus across all stakeholder groups is critical to a successful place branding effort. That is also why a place branding effort often takes much longer than a comparable product or organization branding effort.

Here is what tends to be important to each major audience:
  • Good job opportunities
  • Low crime
  • Good medical care
  • Affordable housing
  • Scenic beauty
  • Attractive neighborhoods
  • Friendly people
  • Good school systems
  • Clean highways and public spaces
  • Many places to go and things to do on the weekends
  • Abundant cultural amenities
  • Low cost of living
  • Good restaurants
  • Reasonable commutes

  • Prevailing wages
  • Labor force quality
  • Housing and quality of life
  • Labor market rigidities
  • Proximity to suppliers or final market
  • Energy and resource costs
  • Real estate costs
  • Political stability
  • Innovation capacity
  • Agglomeration benefits
  • Tax costs
  • Public services

  • Reasonable travel distance and cost
  • A variety of interesting things to do and see
  • Affordable lodging with required amenities
  • Public toilets
  • Easy navigation/way finding
  • Aesthetically pleasing environment
  • Friendly people
  • Good restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Unique local sights and activities

Meeting and event planners
  • Air transportation (access, costs, distance to site)
  • Hotel rooms and ground transportation access
  • Space requirements (meeting rooms, banquet halls, exhibit space, etc.)
  • Contiguous venues
  • Close proximity to quality restaurants, retail and entertainment
  • Safety of the area
  • Tours and other activities

Clearly, this is a diverse and complicated set of needs and issues.  Having said that, a place ultimately becomes best known for one or two things. It is the job of branding to insure that those one or two things are unique to the place and highly compelling.

[1] Source: Brian Klinksiek, “Business Taxes in San Francisco: A Review of How Taxes Affect Business-Location Decisions” A San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) report, SPUR newsletter, issue 424, February 2004.

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