Every Place Has a Story to Tell

Think, for a moment, of any memorable place in your life: your hometown, workplace, or a favorite city or country—or think even of a place you loathe. Recollect the experience of being there: the sounds, the sights, the smells. The adventure of it (or the lack thereof). How people interacted, the sense of community you found there, and the quality of the local culture. Think about how you felt when you arrived, while you were there, and when you left.

When those experiences are created in a proactive and coordinated way it’s called “place branding.” When it’s done well, it can significantly help increase residency, business interest, and investment.

Every executive responsible for increasing investment in “place” should be focused on place branding, because without it, it’s difficult to effectively market and sell your town, city, state, or region to new residents, business, or investors.

Place Branding: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Place branding is the idea that branding techniques can be applied to the economic, political and cultural development of cities, regions and countries based on the history, culture, and ecosystem of a place. The essence of a place’s brand offers a promise, and it delivers a set of experiences. It leaves a range of impressions, not unlike the brand story of consumer goods and services.

If there is one industry that does a good job of creating a resonant place brand and story, it’s tourism. Tourism has a clear objective: get visitors to come and spend money. To do that, a promise must be made that tells a potential visitor, “You want to come here because we have great stuff for you to do. You’ll love being here, and along with those experiences we offer you lasting memories!”

Yet too often, tourism-focused marketing only scratches the surface. It remains removed from the true, authentic story of a city, a neighborhood, or a district. It doesn’t have the foundation of a great story, and so it lacks a cohesive and powerful brand. That’s my way of saying that tourism is a second-order concern for place branders: the real work is done by creating a holistic view of place with a focus on building sustained growth through long-term strategy and greater economic investment (more residents, more businesses, and a bigger workforce).

A great place brand doesn’t just draw tourists, it resonates with the market because its promise, experience, and impression are aligned. It is rooted in a compelling, authentic story about why a visitor or constituent should care, listen, and engage.

Place Story

The creation of a place brand starts with the development of a compelling “story of place.” This story should reflect the region’s history, culture, economy, and ecosystem. Briefly, a truly effective story answers three fundamental questions in a manner that connects with the market.

  • Who or what is your place?
  • What assets support that identity?
  • How are those assets and that identity communicated in a simple, clear and compelling way?

This is where you create the perception you want of your place in the marketplace. All too often, those charged with the branding and marketing of place choose not to go through a comprehensive process of discovery—and the story suffers. As a quick fix, they may go directly to logos, slogans and catchphrases, and a series of strategies far removed from any notion of place story. When that happens, place brands don’t speak to their audiences and—though you may be constantly communicating through social media and expensive ad buys—your story is never told effectively.

This is where TopRight can help. In a series of blogs over the following months, I will go into the three basic elements of place branding: writing the story, becoming the story, and telling the story. So if you’re looking to increase the audience and expand the reputation of your place, keep coming back to the TopRight blog.

TopRight Place Branding

At TopRight, we make our clients the heroes by connecting to their authentic story and creating exceptional place brands. Our clients, be they economic development agencies, local governments, downtown associations, or developers, can then focus on making their clients, constituents, and customers the hero by promoting their place with a meaningful, resonant brand.

We enable great communities with amazing places to better understand and tell their own story in a way that resonates with the market and drives positive results, economic and otherwise.

So let us be a resource for you: reach out to us here to discuss how you can build your place story. And please sign up for the TopRight blog. You can also visit me on LinkedIn. And if you still want more marketing insight, think about picking up a copy of one of TopRight’s latest offerings: Strategic Analytics and/or Marketing, Interrupted.