Which Are the Most Innovative Destination Marketing Campaigns?

Which place branding initiatives (city, region, country or destination) impressed you the most in recent years, in terms of their originality, innovation and adherence to best practice?

That’s what we asked our virtual expert panel last month. Some impressive 31 place branding initiatives were mentioned, covering anything from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, to Wellington, New Zealand.

In this post, we present them to you, in alphabetical order, and tell you what makes them special and inspiring, according to our panelists.

Some place brand initiatives really struck a chord with our expert panel, considering the number of nominations they received. Those are Estonia and the Faroe Islands (especially the SheepView campaign), with Oslo, Luxembourg, Helsinki, Greater Copenhagen and The Hague all having received multiple nominations.

Destination marketing campaigns and place brand initiatives to inspire you in 2018:


What to do when instead of increasing incoming tourists, you need to limit them?

In order to avoid oversaturation of certain specific destinations, Amsterdam made quite a few bold moves. A new agreement with AirBnB was signed, and new policies aimed at controlling, among other things, the number of tourist guides available are now in place.

Less is better. Who knows, Amsterdam may have actually turned the tables in the long run.

More on Amsterdam and its destination marketing strategy in our interview with Frans van der Avert.


Small town, yes – but what a cuisine!

Tapping into soul food, this small city in North Carolina has managed to create a very dynamic food scene, FOODTOPIA, and built a very enthusiastic community of Foodtopians around it.


Despite what the popular conspiracy may say, Bielefeld does exist, and now wants its people to be more involved.

The participatory approach in 2017 was three-folded. Together with creating an adjustable logo and design concept for all stakeholders (including residents) to use, a very transparent contest – the “fan-project” – was run to stimulate new branding ideas among all the citizens.

T-groups were also established in a very informal setting; through what was called “brand café”, different stakeholders had the opportunity to share ideas and thoughts on the city and its brand.

Read the case study on Bielefeld – how they did it

Blogville (Emilia Romagna)

1200 blog posts, 1,8 million visitors, 18 million reached-users. All of that in less than 5 years.

Blogville (Emilia Romagna) is a specially designed accommodation that hosts travel bloggers in Bologna. Guests have the opportunity to explore the area, live like locals, and – well – write about it.


Bologna seems to know one thing or two in terms of city brand management. By focusing on people’s tales, and what history, visitors and experts identified as characteristics features of the place, a new city identity is now being formed.

British Columbia

Originally published in 2016, “The Wild Within” really makes British Columbia shine

Promotional video filled with picturesque sceneries and poetic language, this marketing campaign has the viewer appreciate this province in all its beauty.

Buenos Aires

What makes Mi Barrio (My Neighborhood), different from yours?

By bringing together locals’ perspectives and multi-disciplinary research teams, Buenos Aires launched a project to discover the unique features of 20 different neighborhoods around the city. The project, still under development, primarily seeks to bring back to light old customs and traditions, and promote the authenticity of still unknown to the public districts.


When it comes to nation branding, Chile has surely been quite active. Combining marketing strategies targeted at international tourists with more grassroots approaches that sensitize citizens to become place ambassadors, the country does seem to be making great strides.


Once upon a time in the city of Detroit there was a “Chief Storyteller”…

In an attempt to recreate the city’s image and establish a more emotional connection, the mayor has now appointed a journalist to share stories about people that are making a difference across the city and all its neighborhoods.


CoolEst, smallEst, modEst, fastEst… just Estonishing!

Despite its renowned small size, Estonia has recently been quite in the spotlight for its innovative and futuristic approaches.

Among the many strategies implemented, #JustEstonishing (developed by Peter Kentie) definitely stands out. The name of the country is consistently played around with incredible creative mastery, and aims at acknowledging local resources and trends. What the campaign does is essentially engaging with stakeholders from both the public and the private sector, emphasizing citizens’ contributions in all aspects of their daily life, and well, promoting what the country is bEst at: technology.

Estonia’s Stress Buster campaign is another one worth highlighting. Conducted by Visit Estonia, Stress Buster proposes the country’s peaceful countryside as the remedy to stress. Using facial recognition technology to identify stressed out individuals first, and then playing sounds from the Estonian nature to relieve their stress (video), the campaign reached a total of 50 million people.

More about the branding strategy of Estonia in our interview with Paertel-Peeter Pere.

Read the case study on the ESTonia strategy

Faroe Islands

Our panel’s clear favorite (not as place branding strategy, but as tourism campaign) in 2017: the Faroe Islands SheepView (“Google Streetview Alternative”) and Translate social media campaigns.

Because Google didn’t want to cover the islands in its streetview programme on Google maps, Faroe Island started their own streetview mapping by attaching a camera on to a sheep,

“highlighting the remoteness, the small-scale, their friendly, iconic farm animal and in a way, the invisibility of these mystical islands in the North Atlantic.”

Driven then by the needs of a growing tourist market, and resented by the fact that Google translate is not available in Faroese, locals decided to volunteer and translate texts themselves to further communications for its 80,000 speakers.

Both very innovative approaches, they immediately gained attention worldwide. Showcasing the country’s special identity and its landscapes in quite an original and humorous way, this grand strategy was very well-received.

Overall, Faroese citizens’ have demonstrated to be very enthusiastic about their islands and their uniqueness. Both campaigns “managed to add warmth and wit to the islands’ rugged windswept beauty”, and definitely made the self-governing archipelago stand out.


Emojis are trendy, Finland knows it very well

First country to have its own set of emojis, Finland is now only waiting to see its Sauna ones made available for mobile phones.


The village of Heroes

Fucecchio, a small village in the heart of Tuscany, launched a projected called “Local Heroes”.

Showing great appreciation towards people that have done something positive for the local community, street names are now being replaced with residents’ names who have had a crucial role in making a difference.


Dine like a VIP: Have dinner with the Prime Minister

The “Dinner with the Prime-Minister” initiative (2016) involved joint actions towards promoting Georgia’s cultural values of hospitality, openness and warmth, and saw its 6 millionth tourist winning an all-inclusive surprise that also included dinner with the PM.

Greater Copenhagen

Three regions, two countries: welcome to Öresund

The Copenhagen – Malmö region, locally known as Öresund Region and now renamed “Greater Copenhagen”, has witnessed a boost in cooperation for quite some time. The challenges of bringing this whole region together are many, but everyone seems to be looking at the future with high hopes.

More about Greater Copenhagen in our interviews with Nikolaj Lubanski and Louise Juhl.

Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao)

‘People from Bilbao are born wherever they want’, they say

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Guggenheim Museum decided to link the “Bilbao Brand” with a series of renowned brand ambassadors.


Iconic by itself for sure, but also thinking about the long run

Looking at the Tourism Strategic Plan made in 2016, it is clear that the Hawaii Tourism Authority understands the importance of having a holistic vision when it comes to its marketing strategy. Over the past year, an investment of $3.5 million was spread across more than 100 programs aimed at supporting Hawaiian culture, protecting its natural resources, and promoting sustainable initiatives.


‘Nothing Normal ever changed a damn thing’

SLUSH, the biggest start-up event in Europe, runs every year in Helsinki. A lot has changed since its first edition in 2013, but everything around it – slogan included – embodies elements of the Finnish culture.

Hudson Yards (NYC)

What used to be wasteland

Located in NYC, Hudson Yards, one of the largest private real estate development in the USA, promises to redefine the identity of midtown Manhattan. The aim: creating a new and sustainable “live, work, play environment”.


Sing along to the ‘A-Ö of Iceland’

Created by “Inspired by Iceland”, this karaoke song combines aspects of Icelandic daily-life with its beautiful landscapes. Projecting in a very humorous way Iceland’s unique spirit, the song draws the viewer in – with catchy tunes – and encourages her/him to learn bits of the language as well.

More about the branding of Iceland in our interview with Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir.

Los Angeles


Created by Discover Los Angeles, this digital campaign aims at defeating the “us vs them” feeling. Throughout the main campaign video, people from all walks of life are shown to be enjoying themselves. The vibe of the city, rather than its activities, is emphasized and, overall, the video does nothing but promote diversity and togetherness.


Still a work in progress, but “Let’s Make it Happen”

Luxembourg’s efforts to create a strong visual identity can be seen from the “Inspiring Luxembourg” campaign. Its effectiveness still has to be established, but, as shown by the promotional video, the initiative involves creating global partnerships and connections.


Arts, motion picture, and much more

2017 witnessed great demonstrations of Mexican culture, including the Cirque du Soleil show – Luzia – and the recent Disney-Pixar film – COCO.


Receiver of the ‘Place Brand of the Year’ Award in 2015, Oslo tends to encompass the whole region in all its branding campaigns. This time, a brand toolbox that helps people understand the brand vision and its messages was designed. The aim: creating something that would allow more and more people to get actively involved in promoting the area.

More about Oslo’s brand strategy in our interview with Øyvind Såtvedt.

Portland (Oregon)

Soon to become the place where to retire?

Initially started in 2010, this initiative is a long-term plan that aims at making Portland an age-friendly city based on the WHO standards. The action plan – which includes adjusting a variety of services (e.g. healthcare, transportation, housing) to meet the needs of aging residents – now seems to start paying off.


Timeless in its own way

The Rocks, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Sydney, has now developed an umbrella visual identity that essentially captures the craftsmanship and historical authenticity of locals.

The Hague


Faced with the need to contrast strong competitors such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, The Hague has been putting lots of efforts into its 2020 city branding project. Interestingly, the international spirit of the city is highlighted in both the recent movie “The Hague” and in “Duik in Den Haag” (Dive into The Hague), and so is its one-of-a-kind relationship with the North Sea.

More about the branding strategy of The Hague here.


A destination branding that relies on niches. Two – very diverse – campaigns caught the panel’s attention this year.
Firstly, there is “Uruguay Audiovisual”, a project by Uruguay Natural which focuses on supporting the film industry in a variety of aspects.

Also interesting is one of the campaigns that appeared during the last FIT (Buenos Aires tourism fair). “Tierra de aguas y buena energía” (Land of waters and good energy) aims at promoting Salto Grande, an area at the border between Uruguay and Argentina. First of its kind for its bi-national nature, this promotional campaign will be surely worth checking out in the near future.


In between technology and nature

Utah’s “Life Elevated” is quite straight forward. Visuals and messages appeal to human emotions, and the country’s identity, while depicted as idyllic, is very clear.

Wellington (New Zealand)

Recruiting talents, the Wellington way

In desperate need of experts in the tech industry, the city launched a campaign “LookSee Wellington” to recruit international skillful individuals. Now closed, the campaign was very successful and managed to fill most of the vacancies.


“Some things can’t be explained, only experienced”

Similarly to Utah’s “Life Elevated”, “That’s WY” is simple, yet very powerful. The video – now video series – showcases the country’s natural beauty and depicts human connections in a very direct way.

The following panel members contributed:

Andy Levine (USA), Ben Knapp (Austria), Bill Baker (USA), Buck Song KOH (Singapore), Caio Esteves (Brazil), Charles Landry (UK), Christopher Hire (Australia), Ed Burghard (USA), Eduardo Oliveira (Switzerland), Gildo Seisdedos (Spain), Gordon Innes (USA), Gregory Pomerantsev (Latvia), Günter Soydanbay (Canada), Gustavo Koniszczer (Argentina), Heather Skinner (Greece), Hjörtur Smárason (Denmark), Inga Hlin (Iceland), Jaume Marín (Spain), Jeannette Hanna (Canada), Jordi de San Eugenio Vela (Spain), José Filipe Torres (Spain), José Pablo Arango Calle (Colombia), Juan Carlos Belloso (Spain), Julian Stubbs (Sweden), Magdalena Florek (Poland), Nikolaj Lubanski (Denmark), Raquel Goulart (Netherlands), Robert Govers (Belgium), Sebastian Zenker (Denmark), Sonya Hanna (UK), Statia Elliot (Canada), Todd Mayfield (USA), Tom Buncle (UK).

More about our panel here.

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