Why Placemaking and Place Branding Should Work Hand in Hand – Through Experience Masterplanning

Closer collaboration between placemaking and place branding is the argument presented in this guest post by Malcolm Allan, Jeannette Hanna and Roger Hobkinson, who introduce us to the concept of Experience Masterplanning.

Getting the development of place right through a fusion of placemaking and place branding: We have been exploring ways in which the development of places can be improved to provide a better and more sustainable offer for occupiers and visitors through a fusion of placemaking and place branding.

We term this fusion “Experience Masterplanning”. Literally putting time into planning the experiences occupiers, residents and visitors will have. A plan that informs spatial planning and development proposals, the attraction of investment, the creation of brand identities, marketing and promotion of their offer.

Here’s what we understand as placemaking, and place branding:


For us, placemaking is the creation of places that “work”  in terms of:

  • Achievable investment objectives and profitability for the place, without which it is unlikely to be created.
  • Fulfilling the purpose for which places are being planned and developed. Creating places to live, to work, to shop, to be entertained, to be educated, etc. Places that respond to what is known about target audience requirements.
  • Successfully attracting the desired target market audiences – people and businesses who want to live or work in and visit the place.
  • Holistic place management: the right mix of services that support a quality of life experience.
  • Giving occupiers and residents of the place a voice and a role in place management.

Place Branding

For us, place branding is about:

  • Having a clear vision and purpose for the place that helps give it a distinguishable market position and then a recognisable brand identity.
  • Understanding the context of the development – the place it will exist in and should positively add to in terms of spatial, economic and community cohesion.
  • Being absolutely clear on the overall brand proposition – the mix of individual propositions that, taken together, seek to attract the target market audiences.
  • Testing propositions on target market audiences before detailed spatial and design to respond to local needs.

Experience Masterplanning

All of this then comes together in an “Experience Masterplan”, which details what the experiences will be, how they will be combined and how they can be delivered. This then acts as a brief for:

  • Developing “story-driven” promotion of place and the experiences it will provide.
  • Holistic place management that delivers the developer’s promise on the experience.
  • Monitoring of the brand strategy to evaluate its impact in achieving the agreed vision and the delivery, and management of its brand proposition(s).

For place makers and place branders, experience masterplanning enables:

  • A sustainable approach to developing places – “a place premium”.
  • Architects to better understand the kind of place to deliver the brand strategy’s offer of facilities, services and experiences for the market.
  • A better fit between people’s desires for better places and what gets built.
  • Leverage investment in the place and its projects.

In terms of development economics, experience masterplanning, results in:

  • Increased market appetite and focus on “my kind of place”.
  • Reduced risk and voids.
  • Leveraging investment.
  • A place premium in value.

A more detailed version of this post with case study examples will be available for subscribers of The Place Brand Observer this Friday.

About the authors

Malcolm Allan is the founder and managing director of Placematters, based in London, UK.

Jeannette Hanna is a founder and director of Trajectory, based in Toronto, Canada.

Roger Hobkinson is a Director of Colliers International |Destination Consulting based in Dublin, Ireland.

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