Destination Branding: The Key Essentials for Success

Travel is one of the largest industries in the world, with several trillion dollars spent globally by travellers each year, and within that mix, destination branding has become an increasingly important part of the marketing strategy for locations and the businesses that serve their area’s tourist demographic.

 

Destination branding, or place branding, can be complex. There are a multitude of brand strategies specifically related to the needs of products or services – but location branding is effectively a combination of all those offerings collectively. Building a destination brand strategy can focus on several top line or key targets, depending on the area and the offerings, which may include:

  • Understanding and highlighting the market perceptions of your destination
  • Capturing the unique essence of your destination and its special attributes
  • Building on media and cultural references that link to your destination

  

  

Creating and Amplifying Market Expectations

When it comes to destinations, many people already have a certain perception in mind. Everyone “knows” that if you’re visiting England, there’s a high likely hood it might rain and the royal family with its historic associations (pomp and circumstance, events or historic locations) might also feature on your radar, and in Egypt first time visitors might expect to be surrounded by pyramids and camels wherever they go! Of course those clichés and people’s perceptions aren’t always right!

 

The first step for any successful destination branding campaign is to understand how your destination is perceived and then either change tired expectations, or amplify more unique positive ones. The expectation of the experience is all in the brand promise of destination brand, and your branding needs to really ‘dial up’ the experience that you want your destination to reflect, and be associated with, in a way that’s truly unique and relevant to your primary target audience.

 

Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland, does this very well through one of their more recent marketing campaigns of the Wild Atlantic Way where you can experience one of the wildest, most enchanting and culturally rich coastal touring routes in the world. Wherever you travel along the Wild Atlantic Way you’ll find magic, adventure, history and beauty in abundance. Divided into five main sections each part offers you memories that will last a lifetime. The brand story and video are very compelling – whether you’re native Irish born or an overseas visitor!

 

 

  

Another example of a successful image-changing campaign based around expectations comes from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the official destination marketing organization of Las Vegas. When tourism declined in “Sin City” following the 9-11 attacks and a number of unsuccessful attempts by some businesses to position themselves as “family friendly,” the LVCVA developed a massive campaign called “What Happens Here, Stays Here.”

 

 

 

The branding campaign, which included a dedicated website and several brief and humorous TV commercials, worked to recapture audience perception of Las Vegas as a place for adults to have slightly risky fun with no lasting consequences. Overall, the strategy was successful at driving tourist traffic and creating a strong brand for Las Vegas.

 

New Zealand has been highly successful at capitalizing on audience expectations that were created through the worldwide hit movie series The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, based on the classic fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien and filmed in New Zealand.

  

 

  

Air New Zealand cashed in on the Hobbit craze with its safety video and Tourism New Zealand embraced the idea that their country was now seen as “Middle-Earth,” and created an ad campaign around that perception to reinforce the brand.

  

    

Aside from the country itself, some New Zealand businesses have also capitalized on the worldwide fame resulting from the movies—such as The Green Dragon pub, the original film set for the Hobbit pub in The Lord of the Rings movies, which became an actual pub that’s open to the public.

  

Green Dragon Pub Hobbiton Nz 

 Image via www.dailymail.co.uk and London Media

  

  

Capitalizing on Personality and Character

One of the most effective strategies for destination branding is the ability to define, articulate, and convey the unique qualities of your particular destination. This strategy delves into the primal mindset of the traveller – people head out on holiday to get away from their everyday lives and experience something completely new.

 

Successful destination branding is all about that tangible experience at every touch point for your primary audience. This starts from the moment they start thinking about visiting your location, possibly prompted by your successful marketing campaign, to the moment they arrive. Every one of those ‘brand experiences’ must positively reinforce what your brand stands for and what makes it different to your competitors, reaffirming they made the right choice and your destination is even better than they expected! You want them to leave ‘wanting to come back’ and enthusiastically referring your destination to friends and family or better still extolling ‘your destinations virtues’ on social channels.

 

Australia is most assuredly a unique location, and Tourism Australia has found incredible success with their destination branding efforts by highlighting the characteristics of the land, the people, and the wildlife that can be found nowhere else. The organisation’s advertising campaign, “There’s Nothing Like Australia,” uses powerful visuals and dramatic music and narration to project the excitement of Australia directly to viewers.

 

  

In addition, Tourism Australia offers multimedia presentations through their Bringing the Brand to Life website section, which explore their branding concepts and strategies through video series and a book.

 

 

Hitching Your Wagon to the Stars

Media tie-ins are a powerful branding strategy, and there are plenty of resources for destination branding. One particularly strong example can be found with the UK and VisitBritain, a tourism organisation that is working to change the sometimes slightly grey or stuffy perceptions some of the world associates with the UK, and highlight the beauty and excitement to be found throughout this stunning and incredibly culturally rich country.

  

For example, VisitBritain created an international commercial that was shown in theatres around the world in conjunction with Skyfall, one of the more recent iconic James Bond movie series. The commercial shows the evolution of Bond through various actors who have played the British superspy, and brings it all together by urging audiences to visit Britain and “live like Bond.”

 

  

VisitBritan has also launched a series of celebrity commercials, in which globally recognized Brits explore what they love about the country. Dame Judy Dench performs a spot that revolves around Hever Castle in Kent, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, one of King Henry VIII many wives! Other commercials in this series star Rupert Grint of Harry Potter fame, prominent English model and actress Twiggy, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

 

 

  

 

  

Bringing Them to You

At its heart, destination branding follows the same principles as any other successful branding strategy, though typically on a much larger scale. One of the keys to successful destination branding is to be very clear on ‘what your brand stands for’, what makes your brand different to your competitors and to follow through on this with a very clear and compelling picture of how you’re going to fulfill that promise and meet those expectations. 

 

You’ve got to connect with your audience on their terms at a very personal level, maintain consistency through every aspect of your branding – from the distillation of your branding promise throughout, to your brand experience at every customer touch point and how everything ‘looks and feels’ from a brand style perspective. It must all look and feel like it all unmistakably comes from the same ‘stable’ and be irresistible to your primary target customer in a way that’s truly relevant to them.

 

What do you think?

 

• How does your potential audience currently perceive your destination?

 

• What are the perceptions you’re looking to create for your market?

 

• How can you develop an expectation of your unique experience, and follow through on your brand promise?

 

• What makes your destination unique and worth visiting and how can you leverage that more powerfully?

 

• Are there any global media tie-ins you can connect with your destination brand?