We’ve all sung the songs – Malaysia Truly Asia! – Or we’ve all dreamt about dancing in Incredible India – or taking a nice long drive through Pure New Zealand. But we’ve never really taken the time to visit (pun totally intended) this concept of destination branding.
Destination Branding or Place Branding is the process of branding a location – and although it is not really a new concept, this exercise has definitely grown in popularity over the past decade.
Under the notion that places compete with other places for people, resources, and business, authorities are beginning to realise the power of branding and its ability to attract their target markets.
But not all destination-branding exercises are similar. There’s a special kind of destination branding that most cities aren’t able to achieve. Let’s call it manufactured destination branding.
There are cities, like Paris, or Jerusalem, or Milan, that have acquired their ‘branding’ based on the DNA of the location; romance, religion, and fashion, respectively. As any branding student would agree, there’s huge merit in distilling the DNA of a product/location and communicating it outward. If anything, that’s how it should always go.
But sometimes a city is manufactured from scratch with a ‘brand’ in mind. These manufactured destination brands are rare, and they are difficult to achieve, but when done right, your destination can become world-renowned.
Below is a short list of manufactured destination brands that have successfully been put on the map:
The City of Sin grew to prominence in the early 1900s as a spillover from the workforce required to operate the newly built Hoover Dam. During World War 2, a gunnery school was opened nearby that saw an influx of soldiers in the area. Local visionaries saw the potential in this new demographic that lead to the opening of the first casino and entertainment centre on what we now call the Vegas Strip. Unlike most destination branding, Las Vegas was built from scratch with a certain brand in mind. Calling Vegas a branding success would be an understatement as it is now one of the most recognizable cities in the world.
With minor help of the Burj Kalifa, one of the tallest buildings in the world, Dubai has successfully branded themselves as a luxurious global city. A far cry from neighbouring cities that are perceived as conservative, Dubai speaks a totally different language. Marketed as a destination for high-flying tourists and businessmen, Dubai has manufactured a look and feel that is unmistakably theirs. From hedonistic parties, to sand boarding, to all sorts of entertainment, this once humble city in the desert has become the talk of town by simply being certain as to what they want to be.
The last city on our little list reveals a pattern as to what it takes to create a successful manufactured destination brand. Macau, once a lonely outpost for Portuguese merchants during the spice trades, has grown to be known as the Las Vegas of Asia. Packed with all the glitz and glamour you can expect from such a destination, Macau has become synonymous with gambling. Now when anyone in Asia thinks of partying hard and gambling even harder, we think of Macau. Macau is proof that you can turn a city into whatever you want with some solid strategy and good old branding.
The difference with the cities mentioned above compared to other city/country branding is that they had to build from scratch – and the easiest way to attract tourists is through lights and sounds and smells. Which is why gambling, showgirls and lightshows have become the common denominator in these three cities.
What we can truly learn from these destination-branding exercises we’ve witnessed around the world is that the key to tourism is entertainment – but that isn’t necessarily the key to destination branding.
How would you brand your city?
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