We live in the age of immediate gratification. Students often ask, "How long does it take to brand a place?"
The truth is that place branding is a never-ending process. Most people think of advertising campaigns in the context of branding. They often confuse branding with advertising. Place branding has no expiration date. Campaigns, by nature, are meant to mobilize the participants and consumers to action in a specific context and within a certain time frame.
While tools from the world of advertising can certainly be used, place branding is not just about advertising or logo design. Places do need a logo or an emblem — but it's the least important element of the process. So, while the initial stage of research and strategy formation can be completed within a year or two, reinforcing the brand is a process that is, for all intents and purposes, eternal.
The process involves an ongoing effort to measure performance and success, and often requires on-the-go recalibration of goals and methodology, as well as execution.
One important question is, how do you measure success in place branding? What would we like to achieve?
Usually, the main goal of place branding efforts is to produce a tangible economic dividend coinciding with an improved image. This can include increased tourism, a rise in direct foreign investment, enhanced export of goods, wider exposure to cultural assets, wider political and diplomatic maneuverability and of course — a better sense of pride and belonging among the brand’s shareholders.
The bottom line? successful place branding has the power to produce a strong brand, a strengthened economy and an improved image. Ultimately, this will trickle down to real political dividends.
One commonly made mistake is regarding place branding as another policy advocacy platform — or worse, a crisis management tool.
Place branding is not meant to replace the need of the place’s political leadership to advocate its policies or manage its crises, but rather to work parallel to it. Successful place branding will enhance the ability of the leadership to overcome its crises.
The goal of political advocacy is to garner more political support. Place branding is not about political support. It is about enhancing the emotional tie between the place and the consumer. A strong and positive tie is more likely to be translated into a firm political asset, although it is certainly not guaranteed.
Usually, political advocacy targets opinion leaders, influencers and members of the elites. The method used is an intellectual argument. In the world of political advocacy, the goal is to win debates. In place branding, the goal is to win hearts.
This dramatic difference is unclear to most political leader who chose to engage in place branding efforts. Perhaps this is the reason why most attempts to brand places eventually fail.
Ambassador Ido Aharoni serves as a global distinguished professor at New York University’s School of International Relations in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Ambassador Aharoni is a 25-year veteran of Israel’s Foreign service, a public diplomacy specialist, founder of the Brand Israel program and a well-known nation branding practitioner. He is the founder of Emerson Rigby Ltd., an Israel-based consultancy firm specializing in non-product branding and positioning. Ambassador Aharoni, who served as Israel's longest serving consul-general in New York and the tristate area for six years, oversaw the operations of Israel’s largest diplomatic mission worldwide. Ambassador Aharoni joined Israel’s Foreign Service in the summer of 1991 and held two other overseas positions in Los Angeles (1994-1998) and in New York (2001-2005). He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University (Film, TV, Sociology and Social Anthropology) and Emerson College (Master’s in Mass Communications and Media Studies). At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem he attended the special Foreign Service program in Government and Diplomacy. To reach more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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