How to measure the effectiveness and success of place branding initiatives is a question often asked by those in charge of city brand development, destination marketing or nation branding. Answers provided on this page are especially relevant for those in public administration whose budgeting requires accountability and the ability to measure return on investment.
A word about place branding
Because the term branding is used in all sorts of contexts and disciplines, some clarifications upfront. One of our favorite definitions of place branding comes from American marketing veteran (Procter & Gamble) and economic development advisor Ed Burghard. He describes place branding as proactively managing a location’s identity and its ‘future state’, which requires a strategy plan (Ed suggests 10 years) on choices such as asset creation, infrastructure investment as well as public policy reform.
Essentially, place brands are built from the inside out, as Oregon-based Bill Baker (the author of highly acclaimed Destination Branding for Small Cities) puts it, which requires to look beyond logos and design.
Malcolm Allan of PlaceMatters consultants in London draws a clear line between “fluffy and surface approaches to place branding (logos and tag lines and advertising campaigns), and the substantial and robust nature of an in-depth strategy, executed in a professional way.”
In short, contemporary place branding goes beyond marketing, PR or promotion in that it seeks to create, rather than “just” communicate place identities. This is a challenging task, which requires sound approaches and ways to measure success.
Below a few ideas on how to achieve the latter, and the main challenges involved in determining the effectiveness of place branding initiatives.
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