Andrew Hoyne on Placemaking and Branding Trends in Australia

Andrew Hoyne, among Australia’s leading experts in brand strategy and property marketing, in this interview discusses how placemaking, design and putting people first can help with the establishment of meaningful and resonating places that can also bring in benefits for property developers, corporations and policy makers.

Learn about:

  • How to build meaningful places that resonate with communities and profits;
  • The role that design thinking can play above the superficial creation of visual identities for places;
  • How placemaking can help overcome the challenges of political bureaucracy and corporate risk-avoidance;
  • A concrete example of a place brand that is helping set a strategic vision for a place in need of repositioning.

Andrew, how did you first become involved in placemaking?

I’ve always loved travel and discovering new places. Working in branding for 26 years, I’ve created identities for towns, precincts, places and mixed use development. As Australia is a home obsessed nation, this inevitably led to working in property development also. This lead to a deeper interest and passion for understanding great places from the world and what makes successful communities.

So Hoyne evolved to making suggestions to clients beyond the branding – and we started contributing ideas about the makeup or content of places. This experience covers everything from curating F&B, presenting ideas at board meetings with some of the country’s leading firms, working with architects on overarching themes, and even driving around small towns asking residents what they’d wish for if they could design their own community. Now the love of travel informs big ideas for clients and the project work creates travel opportunities to great new places – so it’s a win win.

What is The Place Economy?

The Place Economy book by Andrew HoyneThe Place Economy book is a collection of case studies, interviews and references that support the idea that great places are created when we put people first. When we create a place with social benefit at its heart, we can assure developers achieve an increase in profit.

So the quality of the social solution will determine how profitable the commercial side can be.

It’s also a 400+ page ‘cheat sheet’ to show people in government and private enterprise what they should be thinking about when they are creating or rejuvenating places. There are over 50 examples and essays, guides, lists and summaries from 13 countries collated in the book. As I am based in Australia, however, this market was my predominant focus, so 50 per cent of the content is local.

The subtitle of The Place Economy is ‘The real world social and economic benefits of effective placemaking’. We’re not interested in theory alone. This is all about real world realities.

There is a categorical link between better placemaking and significantly higher profits. And by profits I mean the financial returns that developers and investors can enjoy, as well as the coinciding upswing in economic performance and community well-being.

When you create a place with meaning and resonance, everyone wants to be a part of it. That means apartments sell for higher prices and lease deals are done at higher rates per square metre. This is a commercially compelling conversation to present to the market and it aims to improve behaviour by companies and deliver better outcomes for everyone.

What is the role of design in placemaking?

If you are referring to design in the graphic sense, it is simply one expression of the branding – and all the crucial strategic work involved – which can be used to express a community’s spirit or personality.

Effective design can activate interest and invite people to share a vision for the future. It can assist in creating a clear positioning or point of difference and tell a genuine and memorable story.

But good design doesn’t start without good thinking. Insights should translate to graphical and physical expression. So it’s a driver and collaborator with architectural thought.

What are some challenges you’ve faced in the overall development of a place?

I’ve learned the hard way – watching people’s eyes glaze over in meetings – that if I drop a word like placemaking, some clients tune out. But that’s just because they don’t realise that it can help their businesses, their profitability… and simultaneously create places of meaning which improve lives. So it has an abundance of incentives as well as mitigating commercial risk.

People with great aspirations, intentions and ambitions work in this field, but their efforts are not always fully realised because of economics and onerous regulatory factors. We need less red tape and more collaboration. I find it sad that the watering down of innovation, creativity and quality – in our precincts, buildings and new suburbs – can be seen in every state in Australia. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

It’s no secret that the big issue in government is internal politics. Bureaucracy can breed inaction and elected officials can be very short-sighted in their thinking because they’re overly worried about short term popularity and votes.

In a corporate environment, the big fear is perceived risk. Not real actual risk but a concern that anything new and different (untested) is an unsafe path to travel. There is an unfortunate habit of replication rather than creation of a bespoke solution that fits the needs of the people and businesses.

If these people really care about creating better places, then these habits need to change.

Are you noticing any trends in place marketing or place branding, for instance in Australia or Asia?

On the negative side there is an unfortunate trend towards a superficial design approach, which results in a graphic campaign rather than a strategic brand solution. This usually results in constant change without a consistent brand personality and tone of voice.

There is also a lack of planning to create and stick to effective, useful calendars of activities. And finally, the use of generic stock photo imagery that fails to capture the unique aesthetic of a place concerns me.

On the positive side I think there are a number of commercially owned, mixed-use precincts that are doing a great job. I would suggest this is because they are more financially driven and the development’s staff are held accountable by their employers and/or by investors. If they get things wrong they lose tenants. This is harder to achieve with citywide placemaking because councils and governments are involved and measurement and accountability is a bit more rubbery.

The challenge is: How and when does one measure a city’s success and years later, are the people making decisions still around to take responsibility?

Video and digital applications continue to play an increasingly important role with connecting and engaging people. And high quality CGI [computer-generated imagery] and VR [virtual reality] has helped illustrate the future vision more accurately.

What does place branding need to be successful?

Firstly – a clear purpose and a unique vision.

Secondly, a connection to an inherent truth. Ideally one with a point of difference. It can be an existing asset. Or something which is being created and there’s a guarantee of delivery.

Thirdly, place branding needs to clearly define the difference between branding and marketing. It’s the difference between reputation and communication. The branding and associated tools need to convey the spirit of a place, and help people understand what makes it unique. The marketing should be tactical, bringing the strategy to life through both short and long term campaigns – effectively activated.

As always with branding, consistency is key, but so is excitement and the ability to capture peoples attention.

In the end, good or bad results are derived from the experience, intelligence, insight and perseverance of the final decision makers.

(How) can place branding and placemaking serve as tool for sustainable urban or destination development? Do you have examples?

Place branding should create an inspiring vision of a community, of how things will or should be, based on the facilities and activities in place or in progress.

By setting up a community to have a strong, cohesive message, you make it attractive and inspiring to existing residents and businesses as well as potential visitors, new residents and new commercial opportunities. You affect longevity and sustainability. Everything becomes interconnected – employment, education, transport and other infrastructure.

A new city centre for Maroochydore in Queensland is one of my favourite recent examples of how branding is now being leveraged at the very beginning of the development phase in order to establish a really strong message, engage the local community and attract business from interstate and overseas.

Hoyne is working with SunCentral, a corporation set up by the Sunshine Coast Council, to oversee the development of what we’ve positioned as ‘The Bright City’. Our challenge is to shift the perception of Maroochydore away from being a sleepy seaside town to an energised, thriving, future-focused city.  The idea is to position Maroochydore as a breeding ground for success. We are creating a prosperous ecosystem where people will be proud, and where business can thrive. There is a collective desire – among council and residents – for a better future and the brand is used to illustrate the vision, setting forward a blueprint to achieve that success.

Maroochydore is one of the case studies featured in The Place Economy.

3 books everyone in charge of developing or managing a place brand should read…

The Place Economy by Hoyne, Walkable City by Jeff Speck and 30:30 Landscape Architecture by Meaghan Kombol.

Thank you, Andrew.

Connect with Andrew Hoyne on LinkedIn or follow the work Hoyne Design on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

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