Lessons from branding a destination

Jaid Hulsbosch

Jaid began his career at Hulsbosch before spending six years in Europe working as business development director with two leading design firms in London and Amsterdam. Returning to Australia in 2010, Jaid re-joined Hulsbosch as a director, responsible for all aspects of business management from planning to HR, new business and partnerships. He takes an active role in promoting Hulsbosch’s creativity, uniqueness, enthusiasm and passion for strengthening client’s business.

Every day, suburbs, towns, states and countries all compete for investment that will help ensure their populations will prosper and thrive. Successful destinations have all paid careful attention to their image, the products they produce and the services they offer. 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.

We choose consumer brands because we relate to them, enjoy them and they make our choices easier. Creating a destination brand, is like any other branding opportunity. It is imperative to ensure key messages and tone-of-voice are unique, relevant, strong and consistent, allowing us to build recognition and desirability for the brand.

A logo and tagline is not enough. In its totality, destination branding is a comprehensive visual system composed by colours, topography, formats, supporting graphics and even sounds that can help to build a stronger, compelling and relevant message. And marketers must manage this system consistently.

Over the years, Hulsbosch has provided clients with a competitive advantage for destination brands including the Sydney harbour foreshore sanctuary, the Royal Botanic Gardens; the high-profile urban locality, tourist precinct and historic area, The Rocks in Sydney’s city centre; revitalising the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre venue; and the popular Whitsundays holiday resort, Brampton Island in Queensland.

These experiences have contributed to an essential guide for destination branding, but they’re also a good guide for marketers looking to crystallise any brand in the minds of customers: Differentiation is key. What makes it unique, special and a relevant proposition, thus creating cut-through and greater recognition? Always avoid clichés without losing focus on the destination’s special difference.

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 usage. For example, iconic beverage brands, Australia’s XXXX beer and one of the highest selling beers in the US, Budweiser are part of destination communication. Tourism Tasmania’s brand partners include RM Williams, Wine Tasmania and Australian Geographic. Make sure your brand is simple and flexible, so it can still be recognised but not dominated by other brand identities.

It’s not just enough to have good ideas and policies. Destination brands need to communicate their values to the world. For example, Tourism New Zealand’s ‘100% Pure’ campaign was testament to a focus on the environment. Partnering with Peter Jackson’s box office movie hits and putting centre-stage picturesque landscapes and breathtaking vistas propelled the campaign to further success. It also projected a worldwide image of the country’s clean, green living.

It is equally important to recognise the pitfalls in destination branding and how to avoid them. Here are a few to consider:

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 visitors. Locals must be able to identify with it and be aligned to the brand’s vision and values.

Failing to 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.

Trying to be something you’re not. Your branding must be based on insightful truths and deliverables, otherwise it’s just hype. 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.

Tags: marketing strategy, brand strategy

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