By Jaid Hulsbosch, Director, Hulsbosch Communication By Design.
Think of place you’d like to visit for business or a holiday. Chances are it is already a well recognised brand destination.
The brand of a town or country is important whether you are a struggling regional city or a developed and advanced community.
Prosperous and successful destinations all pay very careful attention to their image, the products they produce and the services they offer.
We see evidence of this everyday as suburbs, towns, states, countries all compete for investment that will help ensure their populations will prosper and thrive.
A strong destination brand creates a virtuous circle that makes it a desirable place to live and do business.
In our globally connected world, all destinations are competing not only for tourists but also for export markets, business investment, education services and skilled migrants.
Branding has been applied to consumer products and corporate businesses for hundreds of years. The idea of strategically branding destinations only appeared in the last few decades, to assist destinations to compete more effectively in an increasingly competitive marketing environment.
We choose brands because we relate to them, enjoy them and they make our choices easier.
Good destination branding matches the aspirations of the residents with the expectations of its visitors. Just like in business, it needs to deliver on the promise of its brand.
Globalisation has meant that the offerings of many destinations are increasingly homogenous.
Branding provides a way of creating a unique identity through relationship building and emotional appeal, rather than differentiation on the basis of functional qualities.
While destination branding draws on principals from product marketing there are some important differences.
This is a more obvious requirement in some sectors, such as tourism, where countries develop hospitality industries and infrastructure such as convenient airport facilities. However, such marketing concepts increasingly apply to countries as a whole.
Nearly all successful communities can quickly identify their “brand.” They draw on their comparative advantages to find ways of encouraging growth by attracting the people, businesses, education service and investment they need.
What is your community brand based on? Service, tolerance and education? Culture and financial services? Good governance and security or efficient infrastructure and global connectivity?
With an unfavorable initial position and few available resources, less successful economies and, particularly, failing states struggle to identify a viable “brand.”
However, in the same way that corporate brands and styles have been revived from what had seemed an inevitable decline, some countries have successfully recreated their image:
South Korea is a good example of a country that has totally transformed its brand.
From a developing, rural society after the Second World War to one of the world’s richest and most educated economies now identified with efficiency and quality.
It’s not just enough to have good ideas and policies. Destination brands need to communicate their values to the world. i.e. Note South Africa and the recent World Cup.
Just like the corporate world, turning around a weak image can be a challenge, but it is achievable.
A poor economic and political record has consequences in terms of being less able to attract foreign investment, and a higher risk premium in capital markets.
Many destinations, cities, states and countries with branding problems face a battle changing established perceptions.
But just as in business, change is possible and the rewards for those who do are significant. Consumers can quickly forget past misdemeanors once a destination has managed to “rebrand” itself as a trustworthy partner.
Over the last 24 years Hulsbosch has successfully applied to “Destination Brands” the philosophy to balance strategic drive with creativity, thereby increasing the brand’s value and providing clients with a competitive advantage.
Hulsbosch’s experience in Destination branding includes:
- P&O Cruises – destination branding for various ports around the world
- Qantas – destination and travel branding for Australia’s number 1 airline
- Soffitel – destination branding for various luxury hotels in Asia Pacific
- SCEC – destination branding for the convention centre in Darling Harbour, Sydney Australia
This allowed Hulsbosch to put together some Destination Branding tips and recommendations for our clients.
Tips on getting your destination branding right:
Like any brand, it is imperative key messages and tone-of-voice are strong and consistent, building instant recognition for the brand.
A logo and tagline is not enough. Destination branding, in it’s totality is a comprehensive visual system composed by colors, typography, formats, supporting graphics and even sounds that can help to build a stronger, compelling and relevant message.
And marketers must manage this system consistently.
Differentiation is key. What makes it unique, special and relevant must be expressed in a short, clear and relevant proposition, thus creating cut-through and greater recognition.
Always avoid clichés without losing focus on the destination’s special difference.
You’ve got to act and think global. Your brand identity and all related promotional activities must appeal across cultural, religious and ethnic groups.
Your friends define you. Destination brands are usually partnered with other brands for promotional usages (countries, cities, provinces, precincts). Make sure your brand is simple and flexible, therefore it can still be recognizable but not dominate other graphics.
A catchy strap line, an eye catching logo and award winning ad campaign are the outcomes. Not the brand itself.
It is equally important to recognise the pitfalls in destination branding and how to avoid them.
Not having total stakeholder buy-in. These people/entities are the living, breathing advocates of the destination that have influence over the most important touch-points with your customers.
Being everything to everyone. Keep it simple! Be disciplined and focus on filtering all your various equities to a single, strong value proposition that will resonate with the external customer.
Relying too much on advertising. Yes, advertising is important, but relying on it is setting you up for failure. Invest in your brands strategy and positioning statement. Advertising should only be considered at the implementation stage.
Try to be something you’re not. Your branding must be based on insightful truths and deliverables, otherwise it’s just hype. Locals must be able to identify with it and be aligned to their vision and values.
Jaid Hulsbosch is Director with Hulsbosch Communication By Design, an international award winning branding and design agency in Australia.