Keys to successful place branding – Part 1

It has become a common narrative: A city, region or a country launches its new visual identity, only to learn that its habitants hate the logo’s guts. From Toronto to South Australia, and from Caribbean’s to Latin America nobody seems to be happy with the  brands that are suppose to represent them. Sadly, this has become a pandemic: According to a global research, 86% of place branding projects fail within a year of introduction. Why? It’s partly because places don’t know exactly what needs to be branded. However, this is more than a strategic issue. It seems to me that placebranding has an inherent curse:

Lack of public engagement + Insufficient knowledge sharing + Inability to inform public that the logo is just a mean to an end = Public resistance…

Luckily, with the right approach we can solve most of those issues. Project planning is where we should start…

Let’s get one thing straight: Every branding project is a “change management” project. For a place to decide to brand itself, it must have a pressing issue. Maybe it’s not attracting enough investment. Maybe a strong stereotype exists about the place. Or maybe local stakeholders cannot agree on simplest issues, halting the place’s growth. Obviously, every place has its own unique set of issues. But what is common is the fact that the decision to brand a place is an honest attempt to overcome and change “those” issue. That’s why the branding project would be successful only if the desired change takes place. So, how does change happen in life?

According to the famous ADKAR Change Model, the primary condition of change is AWARENESS of the need of change. The habitants (or citizens) need to be made aware of how other places are achieving success. The man on the street needs to be informed about what’s going on in rival destinations. People should understand that unless things change, their quality of life would eventually deteriorate. They should know that the ultimate goal is not to find a logo, but to change the way everybody thinks and acts. Unless the habitants genuinely understand the pressing need for change, their perception of the branding project will be something along this: “They are wasting our valuable resources instead of tackling real issues.” That is the sad truth.

ADKAR Change Management Model

The second condition is to have the DESIRE to change. In biology, no organism changes unless it “volunteers” to change. One thing needs to be very clear: Change cannot be imposed on people. It is always optional. Look at human history… You can be a tyrant with unlimited power, setting cruel rules, and killing the disobedient only to learn that no matter what you do you cannot change the way people think and act when no one is looking. That’s why, a placebranding project should address people’s real motives. It should mitigate their fears. They should be ensured that at the individual level, the change is going to impact them positively, and that at the end of the day, participating in the branding project is voluntary, not mandatory.

The third condition is to have the KNOWLEDGE of how to change. The general public needs to be trained about the process. At a high level, they should know what to expect. They must be fed information constantly. That means, the project team should utilize social media. They should start a blog at the beginning of the project and share authentic, valuable, and timely information with the general public. The trajectory of the project must be transparent. Town halls should take place around the city, where people should raise their concerns, ask questions and get answers. A wiki page should be created so that people can access to required knowledge.

Next condition is to have the ABILITY to change. One might think that the APEX of a placebranding project is launching the logo. But, that is just the beginning of the real journey. Once a place agrees upon a strategy, implications arise. Often those consequences concern people’s behaviours. Successful placebranding projects identify people’s capabilities and then provide them with resources to support their development. For instance, a place that wants the taxi drivers to be friendly could hire an image consultant to provide free training.

The final condition is to provide REINFORCEMENT. Successful placebranding projects measure success. They set goals and use both positive and negative reinforcement to get there. Also, same messages should be delivered over and over, because most people need to hear something seven times before they acknowledge you’ve said it. Also it is very tempting for people to go back to their old ways.

The ADKAR might be a useful tool for placebranding projects. That said, while it would help increase the success rate of a placebranding project, ADKAR is not enough on its own. On our next articles, we will look at the nature and see what we can mimic.

When to celebrate your brand’s history?

Let’s say you are managing a brand that is about to celebrate its 25th-year anniversary. An interesting question pops up: Should you promote your company’s length of life? Should you say something like, “Since 1990”? When does it make sense to celebrate your brand’s history? What’s the right thing to do?

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What can other countries learn from the top country brands? An interview with Jose Filipe Torres

This is the last installment of our interview with Jose Filipe Torres, the founder of Bloom Consulting.

This week, we talked about Bloom Consulting’s Country Brand Rankings. What makes it special? How it works? And why you should care… Click to read the first and the second part of the interview. Read the rest of this entry

Does every country need a global brand? (continued)

jose filipe torresWe are continuing our conversation with Jose Filipe Torres, one of the vanguards of country branding.

We talked about success, failure, limits and dreams. This is the second installment of a three-article interview series with Jose Filipe Torres. Click here to read the first part of the interview.

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What do countries really mean when they say “We need a brand”?

Meet Jose Filipe Torres, one of the best-known country branding practitioners in the world.

We had an opportunity to pick his brain on the most pressing issues related to place branding. We asked, he answered. Candidly… This is the first installment of a three-article interview series with Jose Filipe Torres. Without further ado let’s turn to Jose and hear what he has to say…

In the field of country branding, Jose is a genuine trailblazer. In 2002, he developed the Portuguese Trade Investment brand. Back then he was working for Futurebrand, and that was the first ever country-branding project completed by that firm! In 2003, he founded Bloom Consulting, specializing in country branding, city branding and regional branding. Bloom Consulting’s Country Brand Ranking that he developed in 2011 quickly became a popular research tool, used by practitioners from around the world. Over the last decade Bloom Consulting helped develop or manage the brands of Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria, Spain, and Madrid among others. Thanks to its new proprietary tool “Digital Demand”, Bloom Consulting can measure every country’s desirability in terms of attracting tourists and investment.

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Symbolic Meaning of Numbers

Are you considering to use numbers as a part of your brand? Then, you may want to learn about the symbolic meaning of numbers!

For instance, why do you think 7 is the world’s most popular number? Or does 5 have a gender? Which of the following is better to convey a sense of uniqueness? 10 or 11?

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Should the LA Clippers Change its Name?

Donald Sterling, the disgraced owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has decided to sell his team, and Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft placed a bid of $2 billion to purchase it. Since the NBA approved his proposal, now many people are wondering the same thing: Should Balmer rename the LA Clippers? Do they need a clean slate? That’s an interesting discussion. Let’s look at it from branding perspective!

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How to create a buyer persona?

“Our target audience is 18-48, female and male, C1, B and A.”

You might have heard a similar nonsense statement before… The above sentence is a feeble -and rather soulless- attempt to describe a “target” “audience”. I am categorically against using such lingo as it’s a completely outdated way of thinking. I also believe that in this day and age (#socialera), for a company to be successful, it is mandatory to change its vocabulary. What does this mean for your brand?

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How to discover your organizational values?

Are you trying to define what keeps your organization together? Do you want to discover your organizational values? Would you like to write down “the way things get done around here?” Then, read on!

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Creating a Brand Architecture for Private Label Products

Private label (PL) has always been profitable for retailers: Around the world, the retailers’ profit margin of PL is roughly 40%, which is twice as much as the profit they make from other brands. Not surprisingly, so far PL has been treated as a “cash cow.” Money was invested in PL the product, not PL the brand. Well, not anymore. Why do you think more and more retailers treat PL as a strategic asset, adding value to their main brand?

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