Once we establish that places are brands too, and embark on a scientific and systematic exploration of our place’s assets and essence, we can form the most important element of the journey — brand strategy.
Some places have a built-in and inherent brand strategy that reflects its history, geography, popular culture and even climate. Take the entire country of Brazil, for example, a destination that can be described in one word— fun. Universally, Brazil exists in people’s minds in the context of fun. This is Brazil’s organic brand strategy, rightly or wrongly. No one person designed the strategic concept for Brazil as a brand. In the effort to form a strategic brand concept for a place — a persona of what the place is all about — there is a need to define one overarching guiding principle that tells the whole story.
The narrative must be true, authentic, compelling, attractive and relevant at the same time. The narrative must not shy away from any problems, such as crime, geo-political strife, ethnic tension, etc.
The strategy must be something all brand shareholders, i.e., "the people who carry the place in their hearts," agree on and can stand behind. The narrative will emerge from the research.
The next step is to test the narrative and strategy among relevant target audiences. Once a brand concept is chosen, such as "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas," there is a need to develop a conceptual and practical plan that will allow the place to adequately demonstrate its essence. The strategy should inform all aspects of brand performance, from tourism to culture, and all the way to investment and infrastructure. The strategy should also be articulated verbally, graphically and conceptually.
Every place that wants to achieve progress must build an infrastructure that proves that the place is what it promises to be. For example, over the years, Israel has built institutions and implemented practices that reinforce its brand promise of "creative spirit." Today, Israel is widely recognized for its great ability to nurture and facilitate creativity in all walks of life, and not solely in technology.
Every place has a right to promote itself in the world. Everyplace — country, city, region, neighborhood, square, street corner, boulevard, building, institution, organization — and has a desire to succeed. No place would like to be solely known for its problems, deficiencies and weaknesses.
A common mistake among political leaders that do have to frequently deal with crises, such as high crime rate or terrorism, is to inform their target audience of the very crisis they are trying to manage. It is a common phenomenon.
Mayors often feel that the public does not know enough about their efforts fighting crime. They frequently hold press conferences to report progress. By doing so they, in fact, reinforce the association between their city and the general notion of "crime." Usually, people do not remember the details. They do however remember the context.
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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