Today’s place branding expert interview with Jeremy Hildreth is special in two ways: first, it didn’t require any editorial work and as such was a pleasure to read (which of course you’d expect from a world-class copywriter and part-time journalist). Second, because Jeremy has worked both with Wally Olins and Simon Anholt, he is in a unique position to tell us a bit about those two (place) branding “gurus”, and even shares some secrets and little known facts.
- The role Economics play in (place) branding work;
- What characterizes a great place brand consultant;
- The difference between tourism advertising and place branding;
- His key insights as senior consultant and head of place branding for Saffron Brand Consultants;
- Lessons he learned from working with Wally Olins and Simon Anholt;
- How to measure the effectiveness and success of place branding initiatives.
Jeremy, you started your career as economist, then moved to branding – what got you interested in the latter?
My approach to life has always been interdisciplinary. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So I like to have the biggest toolbox in the room.
In terms of my career arc, branding was a completely natural extension of my interests and ways of thinking. I’d done my undergrad at Wharton in Philadelphia, which cultivated a pragmatic business mindset in me. One summer, I was a clerk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. In the mid ’90s, I worked at a think tank in Washington, D.C. (while moonlighting for Arianna Huffington, incidentally), before becoming an economic analyst at a Swedish variable annuities and mutual fund company in Connecticut.
All that while I’d also been a part-time journalist, writing about monetary policy, politics, culture, and – most importantly – the overlapping components of these realms. I’m always most comfortable at the nexus of things. I even wrote part of a speech for a U.S. presidential candidate during the 2000 election cycle, and in 2001, I was a lobbyist (of sorts), setting up meetings with the White House and with various senators and congressmen for a politically interested CEO boss of mine.