Tag: branding

destination branding two kayak sunsetters

Want to learn how to successfully make your destination stand out from the competition? This article tells you all about destination branding and how to build your own original brand!

How to Build a Successful Destination Brand

The tourism industry is one of the most universally robust industries in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people travel every year, and there are many types of travelers who feed into the industry. Even more people work in the tourism sector. So, how do you attract potential visitors to your tourism destination?

There are plenty of approaches to attract potential customers to a tourist destination. Social media, marketing campaigns, and word of mouth are just a few ways to achieve this. You might see photos of dazzling landscapes on Instagram, see a hotel ad on TV, or read a post about a famous tourism destination in a magazine. What these things have in common is a recall to what makes a destination unique, important, or appealing to a specific audience.

Bringing these features out through tourism marketing is a tactic called destination branding. Think about a famous city—Berlin, for instance. There are a number of images that you probably think of when Berlin comes to mind: the (in)famous Berlin Wall, the unmatched cosmopolitanism, the tall-standing TV Tower, and the authentic Brezeln. A collection of cultural markers like these produces a profile that is unique to Berlin. These markers can then be used to produce and to employ a marketing strategy that attracts potential tourists to Berlin. Of course, this is not specific to just one city; any site can have a brand identity. 

So, the question remains: how do you produce a successful brand for your site? Below, we have compiled a short list of items to get you started on building a successful destination brand.

Berlin skyline

brand your destination like berlin's beautiful skyline with memorable landmarks

 

Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm) has become an iconic piece of Berlin’s identity, completing the panorama of the city alongside Brandenburg Gate or the Berliner Dom

A Brand is the Most Valuable Tool in your Marketing Strategy

A brand goes far deeper than a logo or company slogan. These are simply considered marketing tools. A brand is defined by the public perception and the emotion it makes you feel. It is the promise being made to the target audience that is derived from the product or destination’s uniqueness. Your branding efforts are the process of creating brand messaging and experiences that attract visitors. These should be as compelling and memorable as possible, in order to draw in potential customers. Successful branding occurs when this experience remains in the hearts and minds of the target audience. 

Developing a Valuable Destination Brand Identity

Developing your brand identity, or brand personality, revolves around three main axes:

  • Destination uniqueness;
  • Stakeholders’ and travelers’ perceptions; and
  • Consistency in the marketing campaigns.

A strong brand identity is essential when you are trying to reach potential tourists and attract them to your destination. We could define the brand identity as a summary of the destination’s main traits, the words your main audience would use to describe the destination.

Does your destination offer a wide array of cultural experiences? Are most visitors coming to your destination to relax, or do they come to challenge themselves and take on new adventures? Is your destination mostly suitable for families, groups of friends or romantic getaways?

Developing your brand identity starts by auditing your destination and identifying your main target. It is recommended to involve stakeholders to better understand how they perceive the uniqueness of your destination. Start a conversation with small tourism businesses, travel agents and tour operators promoting your destination, local authority or former visitors and gather their emotions about your destination.

Including the consumer perception of your destination will ensure that the appropriate types of travelers are targeted in your brand messaging. Do not neglect to take a look at competition – locally or internationally – and to think it through: “What do I offer that is different?”, “What is our added value?” You can read an example of destination branding through consumer perceptions from Croatia.

namibia landscape ideal for branding

The wide open Namibian landscape – understanding the consumer perception of your destination’s uniqueness is key to build a strong brand identity

Understanding the travel motivations of your visitors, as well as their decision-making process, will support you in building a suitable brand messaging. Associate experiences with your destination which are as distinctive, compelling, memorable and rewarding as possible. Take the example of Namibia’s online marketing campaign which Solimar ran between 2011 and 2013 that emphasized the breathtaking and seemingly endless natural landscapes of Namibia.

Once this message is clear, your marketing campaigns will help spread your identity and reach your targeted audience. The key in the marketing campaign is consistency! Make sure the brand messaging perceived is coherent on all the elements of your integrated marketing communication. Each support and channel should represent the same brand identity. 

Moreover, the consistency of the brand identity continues on the spot where it is important to build brand value at each point of contact, from signage at the airport to landscapes while driving to the hotel or between parts of a destination. The experience of the traveler must reflect your brand identity.

Finally, keep track of the success of the campaign and reassess your strategy every year, or if a major event has disrupted your campaign (Covid-19 anyone?).

In short, developing a powerful brand identity consists of:

  • Running a destination audit
  • Clarifying who is your target
  • Building your destination SWOT
  • Identifying your competition, their location, and your added value
  • Involving local stakeholders in your branding process and assess their perception of the destination
  • Reassessing your Marketing Strategy annually

turkey destination branding cappadocia

Using the Brand Pyramid for a Strong Destination Brand

One of the most effective ways to produce a powerful destination brand is by using a brand pyramid. Brand pyramids are models that distill the important elements of a site down to an advertising essence. Brand pyramids are important for destination branding, because they clarify the most important aspects of the destination. This helps produce a tagline that markets the message of a destination to potential visitors. 

There are five tiers in the brand pyramid, which are organized from a wide base to a narrow top. The first tier, labeled rational attributes, are tangible destination characteristics. In other words, rational attributes are the markers that can be empirically observed. The physical, quantifiable features of a site are listed here. These features can be diverse, ranging from unique products and services to local cuisines to historic landmarks. 

The second tier is labeled emotional benefits. These are the feelings associated with a site. This tier plays a crucial role in creating a destination brand, because it addresses the tangible emotional experience(s) of visiting a site. The first two tiers work together to create a strong brand image by listing tangible attributes alongside the emotional sentiments that the site produces. 

The third tier of the brand pyramid is brand personality. This lists a group of adjectives that describe the personality of the site. This is how a target audience will describe a site in a few basic words. The brand personality can describe atmospheres and resources, and they can also attract specific audiences. As the public health situation evolves, a brand personality can illuminate how amenable a site is to a specific audience.

The fourth tier, the positioning statement, describes the one-of-a-kind site attributes. Here, brand developers ask which characteristics are seen or experienced only at that site. This is an especially important step in the brand development process. Knowing what makes a site stand out will give shape to a strong brand identity.

The final tier is brand essence. The brand essence is exactly what it sounds like: it distills aspects of all the tiers below to produce an essential brand identity. This is what the brand means, described in a few words. This is the tier that creates a destination brand, usually in the form of a tagline. A great example of the destination branding process was successfully implemented in Solimar’s Jamaica Community Experiences project from 2015-2018.

Solimar DMO Development branding pyramid to help brand a destination

Brand Pyramid model to build a powerful destination brand – Solimar DMO Development Program

Looking for more destination development strategies? Check out Solimar’s Institute for Sustainable Destinations program on DMO Development. Or Contact Us directly for information!

Authors: Caitlyn Marentette / Célia Hulin / Thomas Kalchik

How to Improve Your Destination Brand

A brand is more than just a logo

To start things off, first, it is important to understand what is a brand, what is the purpose of destination branding and how is it different from destination marketing. A brand is more than just a logo, a color and a slogan. Your destination brand is a reflection of your culture and its people, history and heritage, traditional and modern ways of living, built and natural environments wrapped by the totality of perceptions, feelings and thoughts that your guests have about your destination. It is the foundation of your marketing strategy and the most important marketing tool. Learn what is takes to improve your destination brand.

Destination Branding, commonly referred to as place branding, is thus the process of identifying, crafting and nurturing the unique identity of a destination, building a story around the key elements, values and the destination proposition, orchestrating consistent messaging that highlights just that and, ultimately, forming a reputation in the eyes of its visitors. In other words, destination branding is all about who you are. It is the focal part of destination marketing that, in turn, defines how you communicate and deliver your messaging to the right audiences. 

Tourism Northern Ireland – Winner of The 2020 Travel Marketing Awards, Category Destination Brand of the Decade, image courtesy of Monotype.

 

‘Northern Ireland – Embrace a Giant Spirit’ brand focusing on experiences, heritage and belonging, courtesy of Monotype and Genesis

Brand Purpose for Visit Estonia, courtesy of Lantern.  Estonia’s Repositioning and rebranding strategy focuses on telling a story about a lost paradise and an experience-first destinations that allow travellers to make the most of their time. 

Before the global pandemic pulled the carpet under our feet, tourism was one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors, according to UNWTO. While the global economy and the tourism sector recovers, eager travellers are anxiously waiting for their turn to travel again. Though it may still be unclear what exactly will the tourism arena look like after recovery and when that may take place, industry experts say the tourism sector will be the last to recover

Not only are thousands of destinations worldwide planning and preparing for reopening, new destinations are created every year joining the competition for the valuable tourist dollars. In such a saturated marketplace, carefully crafting a brand story that will resonate with the key audiences is what will allow your destination to stand out. Differentiation is the ultimate objective of branding. Regardless of geographical location or size, effective destination branding that stands the test of time while remaining competitive, dynamic, innovative and agile to ever evolving industry trends and consumer behaviours, is what holds the key to successful destination marketing and tourism growth.  

How to brand your destination successfully

Instead of replicating the success of one’s competitors or trying to create something entirely new, building your destination brand should focus on the uniqueness of the place and its surroundings. Consequently, the first step to building a destination brand, according to the World Tourism Organization and European Travel Commission, should be an audit of the destination, the emotions and the perceptions associated with it. Followed by that, it is important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the destination as well as identify your target market. Understanding your target audience will allow for you to effectively wrap and deliver your destination’s unique selling point. A thorough competitor analysis should be carried out to identify a possible market gap and successfully position and improve your destination brand.

It is important to mention that stakeholder involvement is an integral part of destination brand development and branding process. A brand’s success is directly linked to the acceptance and support from local residents, local businesses and the government. You should consider all these entities as brand ambassadors that will directly impact the perception of your destination in the visitor’s eyes. After completing an inclusive and comprehensive destination audit, you’re off to a great start to build your destination brand. 

Practical tools for destination branding

Practical tools, such as the brand pyramid, can help in defining the destination and brand personality by considering all core components of your destination. The foundation of your brand lies in the rational attributes, the characteristics of a destination and its tourism offer, i.e. the activities, the landscape or the weather. Next, consider the emotional benefits and think about how the visitors feel about the destination and what feelings they take away from their visit. The third layer of the pyramid is the brand personality, the main characteristics and attributes of the brand, including the question of how the brand should be perceived and described by the audience. Is your destination calm, and charmingly intimate or is it wild, vast and rough? Perhaps it is a combination of the two? Furthermore, the brand positioning describes the uniqueness of your brand, led by the question of what makes the destination stand out from their competitors. Finally, the very top of the brand pyramid is the brand essence, the very heart of your brand and what wraps all other components and makes them into one.

After identifying all the components of your unique destination brand, it is time to build an engaging, empowering and passionate brand story that will resonate with locals and visitors alike. Your story will be the backbone of your marketing strategy and integrated marketing communications. Choosing the right visual tools and communication mediums will be essential to improve your destination brand. This means effectively and consistently communicating your brand promise, reaching the right audiences, building relationships based on trust and growing your destination popularity. 

Solimar acknowledges the importance of destination branding and provides more insights about this topic within the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) development course, which provides a deeper dive into the intrinsic components of destination planning, development, branding and marketing.

Interested in learning more about improving your destination brand? Get in touch with us today — we can help take your brand to the next level.

This blog was written by Lena Eckert and Emilija Zagere in July 2021.
“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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