At the start of 2017, City Nation Place, in collaboration with The Place Brand Observer, reached out to the place brand community. We wanted to take the pulse of place branding and marketing around the globe, looking at priorities and prospects. Our aim: to get a better understanding of the key challenges facing today’s place branders.
We spread the word about the survey via our websites and on social media and were delighted by the far-ranging response. The survey was designed to enable a comparison of responses from place brand practitioners, working for government or government-funded organizations, and place brand consultants/agencies.
During the time that the survey was open (24th January – 3rd March) we received 103 responses. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, Berlin to Boston and many places in between, responses represent the views of 44 different countries across the globe.
The survey has thrown up some interesting perspectives on place branders’ key challenges, along with insights into what the future may hold for those working in the sector. It has provided an essential snapshot of the place branding community’s priorities, which has enabled us to draw some useful conclusions.
2017 Place Branding Trends and Priorities
Overall, there is great positivity and the outlook is optimistic. The broad benefits of place branding appear to be increasingly recognised. Investment is expected to increase for many aspects of place branding, and consultants anticipate business growth.
Particularly strong growth is anticipated in Asia. Growth in place branding is also forecast in many other parts of the world, including Europe, the US, Africa and South America.
Digital marketing is expected to attract the largest share of budgets moving forward, but this is certainly not to the exclusion of other place brand strategies and tactics.
The findings also point to strong and growing interest in citizen engagement, market research and academic research.
Significant references were also made to the increasing interest in the link between place making and place branding, influencer marketing and the need to focus on experiences.
Both consultants and respondents from government/government-funded organizations see increasing interest in collaborative approaches to place brand strategy. And both expect a stronger focus on city brands in the future. Moreover, both consultants and public service respondents agree that umbrella approaches to place branding are now widely being adopted.
Also, it was striking that whilst currently most interest in place branding is still focused around attracting tourism, both consultants and place brand practitioners working for governments or government-funded organizations expect to focus increasingly on attracting investment and raising the profile of business hubs.
Another key insight is that whilst governments of government-funded organizations anticipate they will be working more with place branding consultancies (an increase from 28% currently to 52% over the next 5 years), only 16% expect budgets for specific place brand consultancy will increase.
Survey respondents appear to broadly agree that maintaining the momentum of place branding projects and engaging citizens and businesses in the development and implementation of place brand strategies are the most significant challenges and priorities in moving forward.
However on some points their opinions do diverge. In particular it was notable that whilst consultants see changing political leadership as a key challenge they have to deal with, this was considered less significant to those working within government/government funded organizations.
Opportunities for Place Brand Consultants
Responses point to a forecast increase in digital marketing (52% expect budgets to increase in this area). However, only a relatively small number of the consultancies that responded to the survey are currently working in digital marketing (22.5%).
Those findings suggest that whilst there is a sense of optimism and growing interest in place branding, place brand consultants might consider diversifying their offering – to be able to cater to the range of strategies and tactics their clients are planning to deploy.
Also of interest – just under half of respondents do not feel their team is prepared to meet any crisis that would have an impact on their place brand.
An over-arching conclusion, for both the organisations representing governments and private sector funded organisations with a place brand remit, is that there appears to be a general thirst for knowledge exchange, collaboration and development of best practice on a range of topics related to place branding and marketing.
Both City Nation Place through its series of events and The Place Brand Observer through its website and social media profiles are designed specifically to facilitate this crucial knowledge sharing and networking.
The full report is available for download via CityNationPlace.com.