Why place branding is not about logos and slogans | 06/14/2013
Read: Free Editorial in Place Branding and Public Diplomacy
Many authors in this journal and commentators elsewhere have repeatedly claimed the relative insignificance of logos and slogans in place branding. Yet, many practitioners and policymakers continue to spend time, money and effort on them. Maybe there are good reasons why logos and slogans are popular and some of these arguments will be addressed in this editorial. However, for those of us that look beneath the surface, it seems rather obvious that the contribution that logos and slogans can make to the management of places as brands is rather limited. Even though this relative irrelevance of logos and slogans in place branding is asserted often in the literature, the arguments for that claim are generally omitted or ‘lost in translation’. Maybe that is why the practice of place branding continues the logo fetish and hence it might be useful to bring the arguments against the importance of logos and slogans together again, here. The reason why this is important is not just because of the potential misuse of taxpayers money, but also because logos and slogans seem to be ascribed with powers that they do not possess, diverting focus, resources and effort from what actually is important in place branding.
Read more: Free Editorial in Place Branding and Public Diplomacy
Social Media and Place Brands | 02/07/2013
Social Media and Place Brands
By: Robert Govers, February 7th, 2013
Earlier this week I delivered a keynote speech at the Holland Marketing Congress (#hmc2013) organised by @NBTC, @AmsterdamRAI and @HSMAI_NL about Nations as Brands, Competitive Identity and Brand Holland. In short, my argument was (as usual) that to consider places (nations, regions, cities) as brands is not about logos, slogans and advertising campaigns but about developing structures, systems and strategies that will enable places to coordinate, stimulate and co-create initiatives (policies, projects, investments) that are relevant, distinctive and meaningful (competitive) and fitting and authentic (identity) (i.e. Simon Anholt’s Competitive Identity). Holland has got some work to do in this area, because although it is in 12th position in the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, and hence punches above its weight, particularly on perceptions of governance and export (incl. its icons of tulips, cheese and windmills), the story of The Netherlands is less known among audiences outside of Europe.
It is a ‘Twitter discussion’ later that afternoon at the conference (with @JosVranken, @CvanTiggelen, @Lars__Sorensen, @jeroen_beelen, @IrisHannema, @SDeerenberg, @gbartling) that triggered me to write this blog post. In his presentation after the break, Rohit Talwar (@fastfuture) opined that nation branding is nonsense, referring to the national bragging commercials of countries advertising on CNN or BBC World, and the ‘brands’ that are just there so as to satisfy the consultants that design them. If one defines place branding by its current popular practice (i.e. logos, slogans and ads) without referring to the rapidly expanding academic body of knowledge (such as in the quarterly journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy) or places that apply more thorough approaches, then I agree with Rohit. However, he dismissed the brand-concept altogether arguing that in today’s age of social media, it is the bloggers and other active social media users that will build reputation. It was suggested, for instance, that if cities or countries want to build their culinary reputation they just have to invite food critics and bloggers to their restaurants. Obviously, endorsements, reviews and positive buzz about a country’s economic offering is essential (place image is indeed largely built through consumption experience and ‘word-of-mouth/mouse’), but it is rather naïve to think that food-critics and bloggers will have a major impact on the overall international brand awareness and reputation of a country, particularly in the short term. I tweeted that: “If you want bloggers/publics to "talk about you" you need to have stories that are interesting to share and that fit you”. @IrisHannema tweeted that this is rather obvious and she is right, but unfortunately, the obvious is often ignored. Also, I am not just talking micro-stories that generate immediate buzz, but also and particularly about the macro-story that consistently builds reputation over time.
‘Place branding’ should not primarily be about controlling design, packaging and messaging (as is often the focus in commercial branding), but about stimulating engagement. The big global media advertising campaign logic is indeed built on outdated ideas of government propaganda where one can control the channel and the message. Luckily, those days are over, but it seems that some are applying the same logic to social media, i.e. assuming that there is any way in which one can control what bloggers and sharing consumers are saying about you and how that builds a macro-story. Yes, the reputation of countries, cities and regions is, now more than ever, fully in the hands of citizens and global audiences, but it does not mean that one should not try to inspire, stimulate and facilitate consistent narratives. If local public, private and civil society stakeholders were to ask themselves what their city, region or country is for - what its historic, present day and future contribution is to the world; the one thing it should be famous for; its defining purpose – it should result in a compelling, relevant, and meaningful narrative. Not a long list of achievements and things to brag about - which are often only relevant to locals and immediate neighbours - but looking for that underlying national story, the genius of the people, rooted in identity, where there is always a defining purpose to be found, which will guide public, private and civil society actors as an organising cross-sectoral principle that should enable places “to project an unbroken stream of dramatic evidence that will give them the reputation they deserve” (Anholt 2011). It is the link to rooted identity that is critical, because identity determines behaviour, which determines the way that people talk (and twitter, blog and share stories) about you, which determines reputation. So indeed, I agree with most of what Rohit said, that most of the current practice of nation branding propaganda is nonsense, but to look at places as brands and to devise a Competitive Identity programme is actually uniquely relevant in today’s age of social media.
See also our chapter in the forthcoming UNWTO Handbook on E-marketing.
Thank you @SDeerenberg, @JosVranken, @NBTC, @AmsterdamRAI, @HSMAI_NL, @CvanTiggelen, @Lars__Sorensen, @MaartjeSchouten for the lovely orange tulips, Holland book and for organising a wonderful conference.
OUT NOW: International Place Branding Yearbook 2012 | 11/28/2012
Thanks to @Nickind @GildoSeisdedos @otgaar @newsmaniac @DualCitizenInc and many others, the 2012 International Place Branding Yearbook is OUT NOW
The International Place Branding Yearbook 2012: Managing Smart Growth and Sustainability is the third annual volume in the Yearbook series and looks at the case for applying brand and marketing strategies to the economic, social, political and cultural development of cities, towns and regions around the world to help them compete in global, national and local markets. This edition focuses on sustainability, smart growth and place branding. It uses the definition of smart growth as the capability of, first, making appropriate judgments according to the relevant performance measures, which lie in the overlap of three factors: efficiency (doing things right), equity (doing the right things) and effectiveness (doing the right things right); and, second, to configure the variables appropriately i.e., to 'getting it all together' in a balanced-centric manner, a priority for future city branding
This volume provides various disciplinary perspectives for mapping ways to lead place branding toward the smart growth paradigm designed to build performance, guided by sustainable values, cultural identity and social inclusive strategies. This Yearbook also underlines the importance of cities not only as the source of around 80 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, but importantly as ecologically-rejuvenated brands.
The International Place Branding Yearbook 2012:
- Will improve understanding of place branding not only as multi-actor and multi-sector, but increasingly as a multi-layered process;
- Provides a city typology affording the potential development path for defining brand value propositioning;
- Interprets the critiques about production and consumption entangled in place brands, including accusations questioning their usefulness and viability.
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Editorial accessible for FREE | 09/19/2012
Editorial accessible for FREE: From place marketing to place branding and back
As this is the author's first editorial as board member for this journal, it felt like an obvious duty to respond to Anholt's (2010a) open invitation to the journal's community to contribute to the discussion about the definition of the field. As a trained marketer, the author is hoping to contribute some valid arguments about why and how the field of place branding needs to be distinguished from place marketing in the following pages.
FROM PLACE MARKETING TO PLACE BRANDING
Anholt (2010a) correctly illustrates that place marketing has a long tradition, and that a case for looking at places as brands can be made using historical examples. The need for ‘place branding’, as it has surfaced over the last decade and a half, can also be explained as an evolution from place marketing. Indeed, places have been marketing tourism, investment and export products for long, and there is widespread appreciation that a positive place image is a prerequisite for successful tourism, export or investment promotion. Anholt states that ‘… there is no question that the concept of brand is relevant and useful to places, both at the sectoral level and in their roles as “umbrella brands” providing reassurance, glamour or status to the products and services that are marketed under their aegis. A positive place image, in short, makes it cheaper and easier for producers to export and attract’.
Many place marketers, however, reverse this logic and argue that in order for their marketing efforts to succeed, they need to improve their respective images and hence desire a ‘place brand’, with which they often mean to argue for a ‘destination brand’, ‘appellation d’origine’ or ‘investment brand’. However, the author will argue in this editorial that this reverse logic does not apply, and that place branding, at a higher level, should be about creating an overarching brand strategy or competitive identity that reflects a nation's, city's or region's history, accomplishments and aspirations regardless of the markets to be served, that is, not to confuse place branding with place marketing.
Read more in: Quarterly journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy
Special Issue on Africa | 09/19/2012
Place Branding and Public Diplomacy
Special Issue on Africa
Call for papers
Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populated continent after Asia. It has a diverse geography and climate, which varies from Mediterranean along the northern coast, desert in the Southeast and North, to a tropical climate in Central and Western parts and even subarctic in its highest mountain areas.
Africa is also a resource rich continent. It has oil, minerals, timber, wildlife, water and a rich soil for agricultural purposes. Due to its wealth of resources, Africa has been a magnet for people throughout time. Hence, present day Africa is made up of a diverse population with different cultures, distinct local habits and religions. By the end of the nineteenth century, Africa was divided and colonized by Europeans who introduced their own languages. In addition to local languages, Africa was introduced to multiple European languages and Arabic.
UNESCO estimates that more than two thousand languages are spoken in Africa. This makes Africa the most multilingual continent in the world and a place where it is normal for individuals to speak one or more of the local African languages plus one or more European languages. Africa not only has an abundance of rich and diverse natural resources, but geographically it also includes several unique UNESCO heritage sites; such as the pyramids of Egypt, the city of Timbuktu and the monolithic churches at Lalibela in Ethiopia. The combination of sites and attractions makes Africa a very attractive place to visit.
Moreover, in the past few years the impact of wars and violent incidents in Africa has declined and processes of democratization have gained momentum. Africa has become a more peaceful and stable place and is therefore more attractive for investment. This stabilization has led to an increased flow of money to the region and has contributed to Africa’s continuing growth, the emergence of a stronger middle class and an increase in competition among places.
It is in this context that countries all over Africa have been making an effort to build their brands to differentiate their offerings and to attract tourists, investment and people, in particular from Asia in addition to post-colonial Europe, where the troublesome image of Africa, constructed historically and because of media coverage, might still disadvantage countries, regions and cities on the continent. At Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, we are interested in furthering our understanding about what brand activities and public diplomacy efforts have been undertaken on this continent. Therefore, this special issue of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy invites scholars and practitioners to submit articles that help advance our understanding about place branding and public diplomacy efforts conducted by the different countries, regions and cities in Africa.
We welcome empirical research, conceptual papers and case studies that cover
the following topics:
- Branding efforts undertaken by countries/regions/cities in Africa
- Specific activities developed to help the positioning of a country/region or city brand in Africa
- Management activities to support brand strategy
- Image research on a country, region, or city in Africa
- Influence of the brand Africa on countries/regions/cities or products (COO)
- Public Diplomacy efforts to enhance country images in Africa.
Manuscripts will be double-blind peer reviewed. All submissions must follow the author guidelines, available at http://www.palgrave journals.com/pb/author_instructions.html.
The deadline for submission isJanuary 31, 2013. Papers should be emailed as Word files to Dr. João Freire (email: email@example.com)
FREE Journal Access | 03/01/2012
From March 1st to 31st Palgrave is providing free, online access to their impressive list of more than 60 journals and also to a selection of their online resources and ebooks content. Please access our Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy for free during Palgrave's March promotions: Access All Areas!
Telling a Prime Minister that he should be in jail | 01/09/2012
Today I was invited to give a talk on ‘Place Branding and Tourism Marketing’ on the occasion of the installation of the new Strategic Advisory Council for the Department of International Flanders, Flemish Government.
I was the last of 4 speakers and after that, the Flemish Prime Minister Kris Peeters, was going to deliver a speech during the reception.
However, the presentations were running late and the Prime Minister turned up early, so he entered the room half-way my presentation, just 2 slides ahead of this quote from Simon Anholt:
Although Belgium isn’t the greatest brand on earth it does have some equity, and to replace it with two completely unknown words (Flanders, which for most people is a character in the Simpsons, and Wallonia which for most people is simply ludicrous) isn’t just foolish, it’s criminal.
The Flemish government is deleting billions of dollars from the Belgium economy and they shouldn’t merely not be in power, they should be in jail.
At least I got his attention and he acknowledged that the point was clear: awareness and reputation matter when it comes to governance and economic development.
International Place Branding Yearbook 2011 Now available | 10/04/2011
The International Place Branding Yearbook 2011 defines reputational risk as a consequence of the failure to manage other risks effectively. It provides a unique overview of place reputation indices, such as the Anholt–GfK Roper Nation Brands IndexSM, Country RepTrak™, The FutureBrand Country Brand Index, The East West Nation Brand Perception Index, and The Global Peace Index. The Yearbook also underscores the importance of culture and society and raises a central question: What happens when that deep felt connection between identity and landscape is ruptured? How do such ruptures affect people, as citizens, consumers and tourists?
The International Place Branding Yearbook 2011
- Will improve understanding of the place branding phenomenon, through synthesis and drawing material together for practitioners, researchers and educators;
- Provides a ‘state-of-the art’ review of research through the lens of selected individual case studies;
- Interprets the challenges of reputational risk that place brands face, particularly through the exploration of the theme of perception methodology research and content analysis.
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"Understanding Place Branding" Tutorial | 07/07/2011
It is often said that place branding is growing from infancy to adolescence, but that it still lacks a conceptual framework or agreed analytical and strategic design approach. With our online Prezi tutorial on www.ourplacebranding.com we want to show that this is incorrect and that there is more than sufficient support for such a conceptual framework. Our 2009 book Place Branding elaborately describes such a framework through what we’ve called the three gap model and the 3 times 3 gap bridging guide (depicted in figures 3.1 and 16.1 in the book). It is supported by hundreds of references to relevant literature and even grounded in work by philosophers such as Descartes and later protagonists. This presentation provides a 10-minute crash course into this body of knowledge. It is a short version of the presentation that we regularly deliver for various audiences using many more examples and case studies.
For more information, please refer to our 2009 book and/or the subsequent Place branding yearbook series, all published with Palgrave Macmillan, or visit our Place branding community Placebrandz.
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Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi: competing place brands in the Gulf | 04/16/2011
By: Robert Govers for Placebrandz.com
With this week’s Qatar talks on Libya, OpenDemocracy.com published an interesting paper by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen on Qatar and the Arab Spring. It provides food for thought on how some Gulf States, or rather, Emirates, are competing for nation brand hegemony in the region. Readers of our blog and our 2009 book on Place Branding will know that we have studied case Dubai extensively and Kristian’s paper has provided us with some fresh insights.
For many years since the start of the new millennium, Dubai was THE example of the modernization of the Gulf in the 21st century while rapidly building place brand image awareness. How come that they seem to have been overtaken, considering the recent media coverage of the Gulf, with lots of attention for Abu Dhabi, its grand prix and cultural projects, and FIFA’s stunning decision to have Qatar host the 2022 World Cup.
One major difference between Dubai and Qatar and Abu Dhabi is that the latter two are resource rich, while Dubai was forced to diversify its economy because it will soon run out of natural resources (since 2007 these contribute less than 2% to Dubai’s GDP). The strategy to build an internationally strong brand through the launch of large scale developments aiming at trade and tourism supported with foreign investment (in 2006 the UAE – predominantly Dubai - attracted almost as much foreign investment as the whole of India), was not all that irrational. Unfortunately, the global financial crisis came at a very bad time, right in the middle of Dubai’s investment hype. Others might argue that the timing was exactly right; putting everyone back with their feet on the ground before it was too late.
However, the international debt crisis induced postponement of payment announcement for Dubai World forced the Dubai government to lay low for a while in order to let the dust settle in the international media. In the meantime resource rich and thus less crisis affected Doha and Abu Dhabi made use of this Dubai silence to build their own brands. In fact, one could argue that Abu Dhabi’s financial help for Dubai, created the opportunity for the dominant Emirate to leap-frog Dubai’s strong brand, exemplified by the renaming of Burj Dubai - the world’s tallest tower - to Burj Khalifa; taking everyone by surprise (literally everyone, because even the souvenir shop at the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa had to initially sell incorrectly branded gadgets).
Tourism in Dubai is still doing very well with constant growth in airport traffic and profits for the airline, but Dubai’s brand has been damaged. The focus on creating a brand image of luxury, prestige and modernity has boomeranged with the financial crisis. Since then, Dubai has launched an interesting place branding initiative with This is Dubai that shows an intimate human face of Dubai, but it seems too late and that the damage is done, creating opportunities for major competitors such as Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi has recently had its own share of Dubai-style negative media coverage with the art world’s boycott of its Saadiyat Island’s Guggenheim and the arrest of three human rights and democracy activists (update on April 18: arrest of four activists). Has Qatar moved to pole-position as the most respected nation brand in the Gulf? What do you think?Like this post? Like it above, follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn and Like Placebrandz as a platform: