Place Marketing: What It Is and How It Works

Place marketing is the umbrella term for city marketing, destination marketing and regional or country marketing, usually with the purpose to attract investors, visitors (tourism) or talent.

But what does place marketing mean, and how is it done? The purpose of this page is to make it easier for you to find answers to those and similar questions.

For starters, have a look at our post on the differences between place marketing and branding. Or jump directly to our latest posts on place marketing.

Place marketing explained: Q&A with Rod Crider

There is no better way to learn about place marketing than from a practitioner who has been involved in the field for many years – most recently as Head of the Economic Development team at Rowan County in the U.S.

TPBO caught up with Rod to pick his brains about place marketing – here’s what he shared:

Rod, what is place marketing?

Place marketing is the process of stimulating demand for a location’s goods and services.  It involves identifying target markets, developing advertising campaigns and deploying selling tactics to influence buyer behavior that results in more visitors and tourism, new business investment or attraction of new residents. 

The place marketing mix consists of the 5 P’s- Product (infrastructure), Price (cost competitiveness), Place (physical location and features), Promotion (advertising) and People (workforce and talent).

How does it differ from place branding?

The differences are subtle and largely misunderstood because the two terms are often (and mistakenly) used interchangeably.

A place brand is the image, identity and reputation of a location held by residents and non-residents.  Place branding involves a consistent course of actions focused on policies, programs, and regulatory measures to influence those perceptions.   

Once the brand is identified, place marketing can then be the vehicle by which the brand message is communicated to target audiences, both external and internal. It promotes the local attractions features, culture or business attributes of the location to attract visitors, to capture business investment, and attract new residents to the place.

Place branding is strategic and long-term while place marketing is more tactical and short term.   

What tend to be the priorities of place marketers?

Lead generation and the tactics it deploys are always priorities of place marketers – whether that be for business investment, tourism growth or talent attraction. But we are learning that the “more is better” philosophy can have damaging results on the place itself through such negative impacts as over tourism in the case of destination marketing and increased traffic or overcrowded schools resulting from successful investment promotion. 

And this, along with other social and economic factors, are causing more places to think about sustainability issues, that is, how to balance the need for continued economic growth without negatively impacting the quality of life of the community and its existing population.

Another priority area for place marketers is the adoption of marketing technology.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of automation and AI across many industries, including place marketing. There has been an explosion in the development of software and tools that assist in achieving marketing goals or objectives and the target audiences of place marketers expect them to be available.  But adoption can be a big hurdle to overcome because it is costly and time consuming to evaluate available options, deploy the marketing tools, and to train staff to use and maintain the technology.  

Which are the most important organizations in place marketing – including networking opportunities, forums and conferences?

Among private sector firms, Development Counsellors International (DCI) is the leading consultancy on place marketing and their periodic research publications like “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” or “Winning the War for Talent” are valuable tools.  Other place marketing agencies like Golden Shovel, ED Suite or S&A Communications provide both strategic and tactical support to place marketers. 

The Place Brand Observer is another leading source of information on place branding and place marketing issues and practices.  It aggregates information from a variety of sources and is a tremendous resource.  City Nation Place is another platform that provides timely articles and resources to assist place marketers. 

Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for networking, forums and conferences.  The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) often includes place marketing sessions in their conferences and offer a variety of webinars on the topic but has no cohort devoted to the topic.  The International Place Branding Association also provides outstanding resources viewed through an academic lens. 

There is a great need to bring together members of academia and practitioners to collaborate on place marketing issues, to network and to encourage research that informs practitioners in the use of effective place marketing techniques.  There is an effort underway to develop an association of place marketers and those interested can join the LinkedIn group here.

Connect with Rod on LinkedIn