Brand Building. By Stealth

To come in under the radar, you have to harness the energy, insights and influence of your local businesses to build the brand with you. You are the enabler, not the controller.

For a brand to have an identity that consumers use and trust is the holy grail. But you need to have marketing muscle and resource to compete with the biggest and the best don’t you? Although it seems these days even the smallest destinations get their 15 minutes of online fame. What is the best approach for getting your money’s worth if you are developing and building a brand?

There is plenty of analysis available online on various destination and city brands, and you won’t find it repeated here. What you will find is a ‘no-frills nor big bucks-needed’ approach to making serious inroads into building your destination brand.

Story-telling is very much on the radar these days; telling the shared story of your destination is a good way to stand out, to avoid those long lists of ‘anywhere’ products and indecipherable listings, to set yourself apart, and dare I say enables niche markets to access and grow your share. It sounds good, but how easy is to implement with any creditability? If you have any examples, please share them as the reality is many of us work in places that are not that easy to sell – for all sorts of reasons; crime, distance, perceptions, politics or even religion.

If you work in one of those destinations that really is a hard sell, what does your destination have to say that others don’t (or can’t), or makes for a memorable visitor experience? And I don’t mean just a seafront with endless shops, vibrant nightlife, hidden gems, something for everyone, or a ‘whether you like this or whether you like that’ destination. It’s all meaningless noise. You might as well stop reading here.

If you like a challenge and are feeling brave however, read on!

Everywhere has a logo, or at least a tatty sign that identifies a place or boundary. The official DMO’s will invest hugely in branding, and sometimes that is where the brand starts and stops. These days, it’s less and less about official sources and all about unofficial recommendations and word of mouth which can so easily by-pass officialdom and see customers dealing directly with the service providers.

When brand building, brand development and branding in general is mentioned, only those with deep pockets typically step forward. It doesn’t have to be this way. Believe me. I have recently seen what £30,000 of branding development has produced vs £5,000. The former a big report, happy consultants and mediocre logo; the latter a highly focused branding effort with strong business buy-in – which is the project I worked on. Brand development by stealth.

If you hear people say, which they will, ‘your destination is made up, it’s not real’, and you can point to businesses and locals using your brand, you are perfectly within your rights to tell them where to go. If you can’t, your critics have a point.

How are your businesses working with you to promote a unified brand and associated messages that a consumer can come to recognise and ultimately to trust? To come in under the radar, you have to harness the energy, insights and influence of your local businesses to build the brand with you. You are the enabler, not the controller. In turn, businesses need free marketing resources to use to in their own communications with suppliers, intermediaries and customers.

What is needed?

  1. A logo, multiple formats of high and low resolution with branding guidelines.
  2. A good ear to hear and act on what the marketplace is telling you.
  3. Receptive businesses.
  4. To recognise and be prepared to communicate the offer, warts and all.
  5. Hooking up with another destination, preferably one that has done this, can be hugely rewarding.
  6. Be strong. Be firm. Use a carrot and stick if a business won’t clear up their act, help them to get it right, before adding them to the destination offer.
  7. Inspirational copy that describes the destination and unique key selling points that can be used across the distribution channels. Please don’t ask the office junior to write it though, invest in a professional copywriter who knows where to look, how to say it and won’t use the horrible marketing jargon described above.
  8. A copyright-free and free-to-use gallery of high quality images.
  9. Customer engagement competitions and trails.
  10. Above all, a business network that is easy to access and free to interact with.

There are some practical considerations around quality too;

  1. Who is deciding whether or not a product is deserving of the brand?
  2. Does a product have to have a local provenance, or is it enough that is sold locally?
  3. Who is policing the customer experience? How can this be done? Should it be done?
  4. Who decides when the identify has run it’s course?

If it’s done well, it can be adopted anywhere, used on local produce – food, textiles, as a part of a suppliers identity, on bright new signage and websites. Wherever there is a need to communicate a message and essential brand values.

The result could be an integrated brand identify that locals see everyday and (potential) visitors base their purchasing decisions on. Sorry Brand Consultants, we don’t your services here!

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