How to Integrate Placemaking and Branding Through Experience Masterplanning

In this How To guide, learn how Experience Masterplanning can help create better places through integrating placemaking and place branding. Malcolm Allan, Roger Hobkinson and Jeannette Hanna explain step by step how Experience Masterplanning can lead to a holistic investment strategy and a sustainable action plan for cities, regions or destinations. 

Learn about:

  • Experience Masterplanning – what it is;
  • What placemaking has to do with place branding;
  • The five steps of Experience Masterplanning:
    • Place Audit
    • Brand Compass
    • Playbook
    • Communications (including logo)
    • Developing the Experience Masterplan
  • Examples of Experience Masterplanning “in action”.

What is Experience Masterplanning?

As active place-makers and place branders, we have been investigating the potential of more integration between the two disciplines as a way of creating better places: places that meet the needs of people, places that will attract people, places where people will want to live, work, and visit.

In our view, what’s required is an approach that blends best practices in urban design, community engagement, place branding, town planning and real estate strategies to deliver what we call Experience Masterplanning.

This is a fresh approach to improving the quality of places through a holistic investment development strategy and a sustainable action plan for delivering the desired place.

We view placemaking projects as a strategic branding proposition.

In our approach, we ask and answer four core questions:

  1. How do we discover, develop and communicate a set of shared aspirations or a shared inspiring vision for a place that investors, developers, local people, business and organisations actually want to bring to life?
  2. How will the shared vision work for target markets – people/occupiers/visitors?
  3. What will it offer by way of facilities/services/experiences?
  4. What kind of brand identity and reputation is desired to represent the shared inspiring vision for the future of the place that will attract investment, occupiers and visitors?

We regard Place Brand Strategy as a vital, early piece of “Place Product Development”. It helps diverse stakeholders of places to identify their strengths and assets, how their place might work in the future and how it will be different from others, and better.

The outcome of our “Experience Masterplanning” work is contained in a document which we call “The Playbook”, whose function is to guide:

  1. Spatial planning and urban design;
  2. Property investment, development & improvement and property management;
  3. Local area place-management and partnerships for implementation;
  4. Marketing and communication of messages and value propositions to identified audiences and markets that tell stories about the place being created in an engaging, compelling and memorable way.

In short, “The Playbook” sets out the strategy and tactics for success, just as Playbooks do for sports teams.


What does Placemaking have to do with Place Branding?

Our central thesis is that place branding is a constant cross-cutting theme in placemaking. In our view and experience, place branding threads through and connects many aspects of placemaking and is fundamental to many of the overarching objectives of place improvement strategies – such as:

  • Attracting investment for development to be realised;
  • The creation of a healthy and sustainable environment that contributes to quality of life;
  • Providing space to support a thriving local economy;
  • Creating a distinctive local identity, supported by effective place management.

Clearly articulating a value proposition for a place in this way is an essential bridge between investors and developers, local government urban planning, and local community and business aspirations.

Based on experience elsewhere, we know that innovative and creative approaches to placemaking – those led by place brand strategy of this nature – can help to initiate urban renewal, accelerate its pace and shape it in more sustainable and locally distinctive directions.

Working alongside urban teams (planners, property, urban designers, etc.) we consider the wider destination and urban design context as part of the curation of the urban renewal process.

The brand should be more than simply a logo or a strapline. It must specify the planned offer and experience of the development or the area and what its value will be to target market audiences – residents, occupiers, visitors and investors – now and in future.

In our experience, place brand strategies can address broad issues in a holistic manner, if they provide an overall vision. This vision then drives ideas and themes for the placemaking concept and spatial master plans, all tied together by Experience Masterplanning.

The tools and approaches that we use are explained further below.

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The Editorial Team

Hi there, we hope you’ve found this article useful. Want to stay up to date on latest place branding insights, stories and examples? Sign up for our free email newsletter! You might also be interested in our services. Have a question or suggestion? Get in touch!