Gonzalo Brujó on Place Branding Strategies and Factors Determining Brand Strength

Gonzalo Brujó, CEO EMEA and Latin America of Interbrand Consultancy, in this interview gives advice on how to measure the value, effectiveness and ROI of the place brands of cities, destinations and countries.

Learn about:

  • How digital communication both supports and complicates the place branding process;
  • The main factors for a robust place brand;
  • The three pillars for success of place branding initiatives;
  • Why building a successful brand takes time;
  • The 10 factors determining brand strength;
  • How to measure place brand value.

Gonzalo, which aspect of place branding do you find most fascinating?

Similar to all brands when they undergo a branding process, I like the fact that place brands present themselves in outstanding ways through their brand raising notoriety, awareness, influence and engagement, of what they are and what they stand for.

Reality is that if you have a solid brand you will have happier citizens, attract investments and definitely drive new visitors to your place.

I am fascinated by the power of synchronization, being able to coordinate all stakeholders and touch-points under one place. The secret of brand success, I find, is having the ability to have all the stakeholders aligned between the business strategy, the design strategy to ultimately drive growth as a mayor pillar of well-being in the place you are in.

Today, in the era of digital communication, is it easier or harder to build and sustain a brand?

It should be easier in the sense that digital communication facilitates access to audiences and makes your brand available through more touch-points. But this also makes it harder: more touch-points where the brand needs to be consistently represented, as well as the need to keep up with the fast pace at which the digital world moves.

Ultimately, the brand is the people, and the people are the brand. This means that both the brand chiefs and the citizens co-create a “place brand”.

Interbrand recently published its annual Best Global Brands report. How do you explain the fact that half of the Top 10 brands featured in the report are more than 50 years old?

To create a great brand requires consistency and time. All of the top 10 brands in the report are well-positioned globally. They have undergone severe internationalization and expansion processes. This requires the brand to be coherent everywhere, and you need to keep the innovation going to ensure the brand’s relevance for the market.

Experience, legacy and heritage are very strong assets a brand should aim for, as those contribute to a more solid brand and loyal consumers.

Which are the main factors for a robust brand?

Authenticity as a brand, relevance in the marketplace and differentiation from competitors.

How to measure the success and ROI of (place) branding initiatives?

The first thing that I recommend is to have in place three pillars for success of any place branding initiative:

  1. People: ways to interact, roles and responsibilities, and accountability;
  2. Processes: management and governance of place branding, the basis for change;
  3. Platforms: the new tools and channels through which to communicate and convey the brand strategy to key stakeholders (internal and external).

We should also define specific KPIs to make sure that everyone is aware of the tasks, roles and responsibilities, actions and implications in all place branding initiatives, and to be able to measure the success of the initiatives according to the KPIs reached.

From the different methodologies available, at Interbrand we recommend focusing on the brand strength model, which provides information about the ideal position to keep generating demand for the future and for those that are performing strongly: “showing strength” versus the competition (other places) across a set of 10 factors, as outlined below.

Four of these factors are more internally driven, and reflect the fact that great brands start from within. The remaining six factors are more visible externally, acknowledging the fact that great brands change their world. The higher the resulting Brand Strength Score, the stronger the brand’s advantage.

10 factors influencing brand strength:

The internal factors cover the following:

  • Clarity: A shared vision of the brand, which creates the condition for growth;
  • Commitment: Invest in people, and they’ll foster the creativity which is crucial to growth;
  • Governance: Taking constant stock of your organization’s capabilities keeps you on the growth track;
  • Responsiveness: Getting people on the same page lets you adapt quickly to the changes which growth brings.

As for the external factors, they are as follows:

  • Authenticity: Let your truth lead you, and you’ll grow along with ever-savvier audiences;
  • Relevance: As citizen’s needs, wants and decision criteria change, so does the impetus for growth;
  • Differentiation: Let your brand be your unique proposition and you’ll rise above the rest;
  • Consistency: Managing across multiplying touch-points is vital for growth;
  • Presence: Be there, in every moment, and you’ll grow in reach and influence;
  • Engagement: Speak to people; form real bonds; create loyalty that leads to growth.

Another model which can be used is the quadrant model, which focuses on four different areas for which specific measurable KPI’s should be defined: products & services, people & behaviours, place architecture and environments & channels and communications.

No matter what methodology is used, defining measurable, specific KPI’s is the most important aspect for being able to determine how successful your place branding initiatives are.

Lastly, if we wanted to measure a place by its brand value, we could use Interbrand’s brand valuation driven methodology, by which we assess the financial value of a place brand for a clear picture of how it contributes to business results today, and in the future.

Interbrand’s valuations have been used to plan, build, and monitor brand strategies over time, assess acquisitions, help with investment/trade-off decisions and determine clear ROI metrics for governments to drive growth: attract and retain the best citizens, bring the best visitors to our locations and appoint a reference for future investments into our “place”.

Thank you, Gonzalo.

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