Place Branding Around the World: Lessons from City Nation Place Events 2019

Clare Dewhirst, who organizes the popular City Nation Place forums and networking events, in this guest post shares a few key insights from the recent conferences. The Place Brand Observer is a long-time media supporter of City Nation Place. We look forward to seeing you in London this November!


2019 has been a busy year for City Nation Place. We’ve launched our first UK forum, our first LATAM & Caribbean conference, held our third Americas event in West Hollywood, and we are just a few short weeks away from the fifth City Nation Place Global in London.

With so many events, we feel we are building a unique perspective on how the challenges – and opportunities – vary for place brand organisations around the world.

The focus at the UK conference was heavily strategy orientated. The importance of being data reactive was an idea that many of the speakers touched upon, but it was also clear that emotional metrics were an essential part of measuring the success of a place brand.

Martin Reeves, the CEO at Coventry City Council explained that with more investment decisions being made on the emotions that a place engenders, being able to factor community pride alongside other quantitative hard data metrics will be essential.

Discussion also included the need to disconnect place promotion from politics in order to function independently on the community’s behalf – but to also remain integrally involved with policy so that you’re able to effect impactful changes.

The Americas conference focused in on the customer experience and the importance of considering your residents among your customers.

Kristian Sonnier, VP of Communications & PR at New Orleans & Co, outlined how the transition from ‘New Orleans CVB’ to ‘New Orleans & Co’ repositioned the organisation with the community at their heart and reaffirmed the importance of ensuring that their residents were engaged with the process of place branding, tourism, and economic development from start to end.

Several sessions also explored the increased need to ensure that destinations take best advantage of the ‘experience economy’ – with Caroline Beteta, CEO at Visit California stating that they needed to “create desire for the California experience. Don’t just increase visitation – promote all things California.”

And the shift from psychographics to demographics can be key to the micro-targeting that reaches the correct audiences with your destination marketing.

The focus at the Latin American and Caribbean conference was much more diverse. Many destinations in the region are making that first shift from shorter-term place marketing to a longer-term place branding strategy: conversations ranged from reputation management, to sustainable destination management, to brand hierarchy, to engaging the private sector.

While many of the ideas were topics that have been discussed at our other events, it was interesting to see how places at the beginning of their place branding journey are reaching out to take their place on the world stage.

Despite the varied opportunities and challenges that each region is facing, there were some common threads that unite place branders everywhere. Everyone is fundamentally striving for the same thing and it was clear at each event that destinations were working to prioritise their community.

Caio Esteves, CEO & Founder of Places For Us, said at the Latin America & Caribbean conference that “We must prioritise people always. People improve places, that improve brands, that improve places, that make people better.”

As destination marketing organisations and investment promotion agencies shift their gaze internally, there’s also a growing focus on the importance of connecting placemaking to place branding.

At City Nation Place Americas, Chuck Davison, President & CEO at Visit Slo Cal, stated that “if a DMO is not proactively evolving into a DMMO, they will ultimately become obsolete,” and it seems to us that he’s correct. By connecting place branding to placemaking, you’re able to effect real changes that support and further your place brand vision. Places are inherently social – so if you can nurture this and provide spaces that people want to inhabit, you’re already most of the way to creating a place that people want to visit or invest in.

Whilst it’s clear that there’s a reasonably consistent definition for place branding across the varying regions, the ever-evolving challenges place branders face means that the day-to-day implementation of a place branding strategy is always shifting and there is always something new to learn from other practitioners. We’re looking forward to developing these conversations further at City Nation Place Global in London this November!

City Nation Place Global will take place on 6 & 7 November 2019, in London.  For more information: www.citynationplace.com/global

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