The recently published intention by Visit Suffolk to use the slogan: “ Suffolk, the creative county” for a tourism campaign in 2013 has ignited much debate within the county and beyond about the wisdom of such a move. This initiative exemplifies the difficulty involved in attempting to brand places.
Unlike consumer products with a single owner and a clear reason to purchase, places have multiple stakeholders and multiple facets to them. The process of attempting to distill down this mix into one single brand statement is fraught with difficulty. The path between being too general to have sufficient focus, too specific to be relevant for the whole offer, or too bland to be noticeable is a very narrow one.
Even if you can develop a statement that can work, you need to decide how to use it - is it a proposition that you declare to the world and hope it shapes peoples’ perceptions in the way you want, or do you use it as a positioning that is the basis for a marketing campaign through which you hope people deduce your intention. An example of the former would be the much imitated “I love NY” campaign or the myriad of nicknames and slogans used for U.S. states; of the latter would be Manchester’s “original modern city” positioning which lay behind the activities which have resulted in its successfully raised profile in recent years.
Both options have their merits and risks, and you need to be very clear how you are going to use your brand statement to decide which route to follow. Whichever way you choose, don’t forget to make sure you’re original. The team at Visit Suffolk would do well to take a trip to Ilfracombe where Damian Hirst’s new Verity statue has just been unveiled - an oversize example perhaps of Ilfracombe’s “curious coastal charm”, the phrase used already to describe the town’s destination identity on visitilfracombe.co.uk. Ay, there’s the rub.
This article highlights one of the discussion points in Totality's workshop session on developing a positioning for a place brand. For more details on this workshop and other aspects of creating a strong place brand, please contact Nick Jones.