In this guest post from The Place Brand Observer, Sikko Baltus of HubTownCity examines the nature and purpose of brands. He introduces us to the idea of Place as a society of brands, and tells us how to benefit from brand crowds.
Branding has come a long way. In the old days, it was mostly through product (or service) advertising, and more often than not, uninspiring. But we know, advertising is not all of branding.
Thankfully, it is backed up by all the other assets that make our brands today – changing the way we share our stories. The stories are something much more than just a logo or an ad campaign.
Branding has evolved into a multi-channeled operation. Today, attitudes become brands and brands become attitudes, as we’ve seen with Nike.
Ideas become companies, and companies become ideas, such as AirBnB or Apple. Brands become social; social becomes a brand. We, ourselves, have become brands (via Linkedin, Instagram, blogs, etc.) creating an online version of our self.
Brands now have a purpose — they are a belief, a kind of ambition. It even includes ‘Service Design’, trying to make our life easier in every way – adding value to the full experience, delivering the all-round brand promise. Branding is everything and everywhere.
Place as Society of Brands
What does this do for place branding? Place branding is a combination of all of the above. After all, a place is a home, a stopover for visitors, a headquarters for companies, and a community for people where they share their beliefs, ambitions, and life goals.
" Place brand experts are confronted with the opportunity to match the right brand partners to expand the notion of a place; share, shift and co-exist as a community for the betterment of the overall reputation. In other words, a place is a society of brands. "
A place has an economical responsibility. How well is a place doing? Who or what does it support? Is money coming in or going out, are people making the place livable, lovable, and usable? How is this funded?
So it is important to keep the two lifelines of its people and its economy running. But how? In short, by working with the whole of the brand society that shapes them. Amsterdam and New York both have similar solutions for redirecting the overwhelming number of tourists to regional areas outside the city. They engage either foreign or local people, including travel writers, bloggers, and vloggers. Great Britain on the other hand connects their place brand to national entities at global events overseas, adding value by lending the heritage of a particular place or region to commercial brands that call your place home.
Maneuvering through the brand crowd
What is a brand crowd? Like a society or global entity, a ‘brand crowd’ is a collection of individual brands within a larger group, yet these individual brands maintain an independent voice, chasing their own goals. This provides opportunities worth celebrating to support the reputation of your ‘brand crowd,’ both here and abroad.
However, brand crowds can become chaotic and off balance when, for example, specific media coverage overshadows brand communication strategies. On the contrary, if there are too many individual brands seeking attention, none will stand out from the brand crowd. It is a delicate balance, requiring a supportive push and pull.
Become opportunity leaders
Identify key collective characteristics to set the balance. A strategy can help select the right opportunities for you to push those that fit your brand. Having a diverse focus will resist chaos for your brand stories and brand partners.
The Hague is an example of this balance. ‘City by the Sea’ offers a clear approach to their blog partners with their recently awarded ‘bloggers house.’ While at the same time, The Hague also functions as the ‘Capital of Justice’. Combined, they both add value to the total picture of the city.
Add opportunity guidelines to your brand book, and keep it all-inclusive by accommodating the differences in your society, the majority of brand entities, brand followers and so on. This accommodation helps to establish a healthy diversity of your ‘Place Society’.
Brand flow and place buzz
Understood as a society of brands, place brands offer useful platforms for events, ideas, and experiences. For example, the Swedish Institute supports the public conversation continuously. It’s a beautiful all-inclusive approach that promotes itself through each brand community, thereby creating a continuum.
For the Place entity, we need to match this continuum. Events can play a role in creating momentum and buzz. If we take a few learnings from event strategy campaigns, we see how they build attention and open a dialogue around specific topics, all the while building excitement towards bringing people together. Place branders are well advised to follow suit by offering all flavors, whether smart, interesting, fun or inspiring – not just to potential visitors, investors or talent, but to their internal stakeholders.