As visitor and meeting planner budgets shrink in a struggling economy, many cities have chosen to use destination branding in an effort to increase tourism and business travel to their location. Knowing where to start when developing a destination brand can mean the difference between success and failure.
Understand Destination Complexities
Because the branding of a city or town is designed to not only bring tourists to the area, but also to assist in economic development, many voices must be heard in the development process. Business owners may have a different view on how to brand the city than the visitor’s bureau may have, while an economic council may have its own unique, bottom-line driven perspective.
Know Your Strengths
Often, cities forget to brand themselves as “something different” and focus on standard tourist attractions or on the business aspect of the location. In 2007, Santa Rosa, Calif., whose previous slogan was simply “Come Visit” found that visitors were choosing smaller, surrounding towns for conventions and vacations. City officials conducted research and learned that Santa Rosa was considered an excellent place to conduct business. With more than 200 wineries surrounding the city, Santa Rosa designed a new strategy to promote their agricultural heritage. The new campaign, “Place of Plenty,” was designed to attract business visitors who were looking for excellent food and wine venues in addition to business and convention amenities.
Use History and Geography to Your Advantage
Many cities rely on history or a unique geographical or historical attribute to promote the area. East Coast cities attract visitors to the Atlantic Ocean, while Williamsburg, Va., focuses on the history aspects of the surrounding area. One city that has enjoyed success in its rebranding effort is Lexington, Kentucky, the self-proclaimed Horse Capital of the World. In 2010 the city hosted the World Equestrian Games, and thousands of tourists visited from around the world. The Lexington Visitor and Convention Bureau worked with Pentagram Design to create a distinctive identity for the city centered around amythical blue racehorse named “Big Lex”, a cross between the famous Kentucky bluegrass and their equestrian heritage. The new campaign gave the city a memorable icon that builds off its unique heritage.
By knowing the strengths of your city or town, it is possible to develop successful destination branding strategies that will increase visitors and economic growth.
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