Place Branding in 2024: Expert Insights on Trends and Priorities

Place branding is undergoing significant transformations, shaped by diverse global developments. The Place Brand Observer’s panel of specialists brings together voices from across the spectrum to outline the key trends expected to impact place branding in 2024. This article synthesizes their views, offering a holistic overview of the future direction in place branding.

Key Takeaways

  • Geopolitical shifts and sustainability are shaping global place branding strategies, with an increasing focus on energy independence and environmental responsibility.
  • Technological integration, particularly through generative AI, is enabling hyper-personalized destination experiences, transforming how consumers plan and engage with travel.
  • Inclusivity, diversity, and community focus remain central to modern place branding efforts, with authenticity and real, unpolished content driving deeper connections.
  • Challenges like overtourism, safety concerns, and changing consumer behaviors are driving innovative solutions in place branding, highlighting the need for adaptive strategies.
  • Emotional engagement, the economic/social value of branding, and the shift towards authenticity and personalization are becoming crucial measurement metrics.

The Advent of the Personalized Place Through Generative AI

The integration of generative AI into place and  destination communications marks a pivotal shift towards the creation of the Personalized Place. With 12.9% of the global population turning to ChatGPT for holiday planning within its first year and a significant preference among younger demographics for conversational AI over traditional searches, the landscape of travel planning is undergoing a transformation.

“With hyper-personalization now possible at scale, places need to be proactive in leveraging the relevancy this offers,” Mary Harris emphasizes, highlighting the vast opportunities for places to engage new audiences, enhance partnerships, diversify offerings, and gain new insights.

The Rising Currency of Authenticity

In response to the proliferation of generative AI and templated communications, there’s a growing global emphasis on authenticity. Influencer content, particularly from nano influencers and industry experts, is outperforming brand-generated content in terms of ad recall and action intent.

“Authentic, less polished, and creator-driven content that feels social-first is becoming crucial. This authenticity fosters trust, familiarity, and relevance, significantly influencing tourist visits and investment,” Mary Harris notes.

This trend suggests a shift towards leveraging real people and experiences in place branding communications, moving away from overly polished narratives.

Understanding Changing People and Their Planning Dynamics

Significant changes in traditional life milestones and planning dynamics are influencing place branding strategies. With declines in university graduation rates, marriage, and more independent living, coupled with a trend towards shorter planning horizons and delays in major life decisions, place branding must adapt.

“Places are witnessing shifts from visiting the ‘original’ to discovering ‘Destination Dupes,’ and from party towns to detox breaks. Adapting to the new mindsets and behaviors of audiences is essential for maintaining relevance and seizing new opportunities,” Harris advises.

Geopolitical Shifts and Global Dynamics

Ed Burghard emphasizes the impact of energy access, global terrorism, and the balance between globalism and nationalism. He warns, “Global sourcing will change dramatically if the US again pursues energy independence, affecting NATO nations by reducing costs and political pressure from Russia and the Middle East.”

Burghard highlights the critical nature of these geopolitical factors in shaping place branding strategies amidst evolving global relations.

Sustainability, Technological Integration, and Inclusivity

Jaume Marín points to sustainability, technology, and inclusivity as pivotal trends. He notes the importance of “real evaluation of the commitment in sustainability,” including renewable energy and sustainable mobility, and how these initiatives significantly influence place branding.

Marín also underscores the role of technology and inclusivity, citing Catalonia’s PROA software as a step toward universal tourism access.

Community Focus and Addressing Overtourism

Bill Baker expands the focus to include the community’s capacity to manage and sustain a brand, the urgent need to address overtourism, and the evolving roles of downtowns and business precincts.

Baker’s perspective highlights the necessity of evolving place branding beyond tourism to encompass broader community and economic factors.

Inclusion, Diversity, and Resilience

Stella Kladou and Cecilia Cassinger delve into the themes of inclusion, diversity, power dynamics, and resilience. Kladou discusses the importance of technology in addressing these issues, while Cassinger emphasizes the need for place branding to promote inclusivity, celebrate diversity, and focus on conflict zones and humanitarian initiatives.

Economic Impact and Social Value

Stu Speirs introduces a critical perspective on measuring the return on investment in non-dollar terms, stressing the importance of assessing the social impact of place branding.

“Place Branding at its best is a rising tide that lifts all boats,” Speirs remarks, highlighting the need to account for the diverse needs and stories within communities.

Authentic Experiences and Digital Engagement

Adam Mikolajczyk and Hjörtur Smárason stress the growing demand for authentic, local experiences and the influence of digital technologies. Mikolajczyk points to the rise of digital and virtual engagement, while Smárason focuses on sustainability and climate change as major influencers, particularly in the tourism sector.

The Importance of Livability and Safety

Mike Persson Gripkow and Jeannette Hanna discuss the importance of residence focus, digital and physical authenticity, and livability. Persson talks about the need for places to be sustainable and attractive to all target groups, while Hanna addresses the impact of climate emergencies and political volatility on place branding.

The Role of AI and Emotional Engagement

Günter Soydanbay and ⭐ Natasha Grand Norman explore the impact of AI on creating compelling promotional materials and the significance of emotional engagement in place branding.

Soydanbay discusses the challenges of differentiation in a saturated market, and Grand highlights the need for places to communicate their values and offer opportunities for meaningful engagement.

Place Branding Trends 2024: Conclusion

The collective insights from the TPBO panel of leading practitioners and academics present a comprehensive view of the future of place branding in 2024. From geopolitical shifts to the importance of sustainability, inclusivity, community engagement, and the integration of technology, these trends underscore the multifaceted nature of place branding.

As the field continues to evolve, the insights provided by these experts will be invaluable in navigating the complex landscape of place branding, ensuring strategies are responsive to the changing global context and local needs.

Want a more detailed view – or a deep dive into what these place branding trends 2024 mean for your city, region or country? TPBO offers custom reports and consultations. Get in touch!

Names marked with feature a full professional profile, highlighting the person’s impact in the realm of place branding.


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