Why Place Branding Is (Still) Not About Logos and Slogans

Considering the recent controversy around the logo developed for Tri-Cities (Washington, US) and its striking semblance to the logo used for Sao Paulo in Brazil, this is probably a good time to remind ourselves that place branding really isn’t just about logos and slogans.

The Place Brand Observer already wrote about this in 2014, and place branding expert and author Robert Govers made it quite clear in his 2013 editorial in the academic journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy.

Logos and slogans only part of place branding

Place branding expert Robert GoversIn the editorial, Govers points out that: “Many authors in this journal and commentators elsewhere have repeatedly claimed the relative insignificance of logos and slogans in place branding. Yet, many practitioners and policymakers continue to spend time, money and effort on them. Maybe there are good reasons why logos and slogans are popular and some of these arguments will be addressed in this editorial.”

“However, for those of us that look beneath the surface, it seems rather obvious that the contribution that logos and slogans can make to the management of places as brands is limited. Even though this relative irrelevance of logos and slogans in place branding is asserted often in the literature, the arguments for that claim are generally omitted or ‘lost in translation’.”

“Maybe that is why the practice of place branding continues the logo fetish and hence it might be useful to bring the arguments against the importance of logos and slogans together again, here.”

“The reason why this is important is not just because of the potential misuse of taxpayers money, but also because logos and slogans seem to be ascribed with powers that they do not possess, diverting focus, resources and effort from what actually is important in place branding.”

Why logos and slogans (still) dominate place branding

Place branding advisor Jeremy Hildreth traces the dominant role of logos and slogans back to the following reasons:

  • Letterhead needs something in the upper right-hand corner
  • Ease of purchase
  • Prestige and pleasure
  • Peer pressure and one-upsmanship

Place branding principles

If you are in charge of the branding of your city, region, destination or country, a good place to start are the place branding principles and the 5-step approach to place branding, developed by Robert Govers, Gerard van Keken and Erik van ‘t Klooster.

While this isn’t the only valid approach out there, the principles will help you understand what to aim for and what to expect from place consultants and branding service providers.

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