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On Branding Your Little Corner of the World

Date Icon Feb 26, 2021
Author Icon Natalie Ross

Last week, the TopRight team held a web event, Place Branding: Creating Value Beyond Names, Logos, and Slogans. We hosted four fantastic guests who spoke from the perspectives of marketing and development, private industry, government, and the nonprofit world. Each speaker maintained a focus on how place branding drives its impact beyond tourism to transform critical areas like innovation, place making, place management, local pride, technology and communications, and a host of others. If you haven’t yet, check out the webinar video by clicking the link above—it’s worth the time.

If you’re considering learning more about place branding or interested in what a marketing plan for your place might look like, here are some basic questions to ask yourself before you start.

Where Are You Now?

Good branding has to start somewhere, and to get where you want to go you have to start with what’s in front of you. Sure, it’s fine to aspire to the likes of New York City, but if your area resembles the Red Rock Canyon or the farmlands of the Midwest, looking to New York for inspiration isn’t going to help you. Instead, do research, starting with your community. This can be achieved through focus groups, online surveys, mall-intercepts, or one-on-one interviews, to name a few. The point is you need to dialogue with community members to find out what your place offers to possible new audiences. No matter where you live or what your place looks like, the locals love it for some reason—and not only that, they will be able to tell you what isn’t working and needs improvement. It’s these ideas that will form the basis of your place brand going forward.

What is Your Point of Difference?

What is that one thing your place brand can hang its hat on, that thing that truly separates it from a sea of sameness? You must be able to recognize what the category table-stakes versus the real differentiators are. Look for what you have to check off to put yourself in the consideration set v. what makes your brand truly invaluable. At TopRight, we make use of the Why-What-How method, asking ourselves why a place a brand is valuable, what it does to deliver the goods, and how it communicates its value proposition. We also view place branding a little differently at TopRight, using productization of public services to raise awareness, engage audiences, and finally elevate tax revenue. But in order to find your point of difference and communicate it effectively, you must expand your thinking about what makes your place brand attractive and special.

What Is Your True Purpose?

In the end, brand strategy is the external communication of the internal business strategy, and an internal business strategy without purpose is a bit like a top-of-the-line cruise ship without a destination. You need to know what your aspirations are. Look at big brands like Nike, Apple, IBM, and Starbucks—these businesses are their brands because they represent not just products but social purpose. By framing messaging around purpose, place brands can elevate the conversation from idle chatter about tourist attractions to a stronger focus on the calling they serve, bringing authenticity and passion into their marketing message. You want people to get excited about telling your place story for you, the way people talk about Nashville, Hollywood, or New York City itself. Think of it this way, other place brands may be able to copy your service offerings, but, if you do it right, no one should be able copy your purpose.

The Takeaway

When you can envision a strategy based on these fundamentals—research, point of difference, and purpose—you can begin to map your place story across the board, from sales conversations, proposals and emails to webpage content, tweets, and LinkedIn posts. You can also create an action plan to align your place’s brand management around these basics, getting everyone on a consistent message and putting that new message out to the marketplace. When you do this effectively, you’ll find that audiences out there will start telling your place story back to you sooner than you think.

Want to know more about how place branding can transform where you live? Contact us now. And subscribe to the TopRight blog! Do feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or follow TopRight CEO Bill Fasig on Twitter.

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