Interview: Jeannette Hanna of Trajectory Consulting on Creating Authentic Place Brands

Jeannette Hanna of the strategic brand agency Trajectory in Canada, in this interview touches on the intertwined destiny of the fields of place branding, placemaking and place management. We also discuss place brand authenticity and how a qualitative approach to place brand development can help distill the meaning of places.

Learn about:

  • How to create authentic place brands;
  • How an inductive, qualitative approach can help to distill the meaning of places;
  • The link between place branding, placemaking and place management;
  • Good practice examples of storytelling and engaging communities in place branding;
  • How a systems perspective can help us better understand how to balance chaos and order in place management.

Jeannette, advising on place brands is an important part of your strategy consultancy Trajectory. In your view, what does a city or destination brand need, to be authentic?

Just look at the definitions of authentic: Done in an original way; based on facts; being emotionally appropriate, significant, purposeful and responsible. All those apply. The challenge is to create a process for capturing a broad range of inputs and then bring them together in a meaningful synthesis – a “masala” of facts, voices, experiences and perspectives. As media seer Marshall McLuhan once said, “I don’t know who invented water but it wasn’t a fish.”

Because cultural customs, stories and values are so integral to the way of life in any place, it’s often hard for locals to see how their environment is distinct. The job of place branding is to help surface those one-of-a-kind qualities. That’s where the “genius loci” emerges.

The biggest mistake is to create some live/work/play pastiche of a place and then try to get the populace to “buy-in.” That’s the create-a-tagline-and-flog-it approach. It’s deadly.


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The Editorial Team

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