Good effective marketing and branding of a place or a community is based on classic common sense marketing but does require certain specific and significant twists to make it truly effective.
The development of a distinctive, compelling and credible brand vision and its effective communication to specific internal & external target audience as well as the general public is essential for the successful development of an acknowledged reputation of any community as an attractive place to live, work visit, socialize, conduct business and in which to invest.
This requires an objective, evidence based, and creative development process; based on the significant unique positive assets of the community “brand” – many of them often un-discovered – while also cognizant of the “reality” of historical and current perceptions.
From a brand and marketing point of view, stand-alone significant economic communities such as large scale towns, cities and nations are not highly controlled proprietary consumer products. Rather communities are highly complex composite service brands mostly driven by history, people, stakeholder and community behavior and inevitably governed mostly by often vague external perceptions rather than current realities.
The branding and subsequent marketing of such a complex multi-community dependent entity, requires clear objective outside-in analysis, sensitive handling at all stage of both development and deployment, and a significant level of leadership behaviour to ensure that – eventually – the appropriate yet distinctive, compelling yet credible community “brand proposition” emerges.
In addition a significant amount of “internal” selling and marketing is required to ensure that the community stakeholders themselves are 100% behind the eventual brand vision and are poised to support the effective marketing of their place through their behavior, as well as in other creative ways.
Central to this is the essential step of ensuring that current stakeholders are both at a minimum “on message” and more importantly are enthusiastic supporters of their brand and active in its partner marketing efforts.
In any community as well as the easily identifiable positives, there are of course negatives and often some significant ones from a perception point of view. The most important issue of course for any community brand is the presence of true community spirit; and – in the case of Cities – a clear commitment to genuine City Centre renewal – most communities have these commitments to renewal, even if one does have to search around to unleash them.
The brand, marketing & messaging challenge for communities is to package the positives powerfully, handle the perceived negatives in a positive way and equip and inspire stakeholders to get behind the appropriate behavior and messaging.
The initial focus of community or place marketing and branding is therefore to unearth that distinctive, compelling and credible community brand vision, and bring it alive in a sector relevant way – for citizens, workers, visitors, investors and the general public.
Then formulate pragmatic action oriented measurable creative marketing solutions, designed to ensure all key stakeholders play their part behaviourly and in getting the sector relevant messages out to the primary target audiences.
And of course never forget that when it comes to communities “brands really are behaviour..”
(c) Noel Toolan, May 2012