Some time ago I delivered a keynote presentation and the CEO of a city tourism organization approached me and said, “I enjoyed your presentation, but isn’t branding cities obsolete?” He went on to say that he believed that brands are irrelevant and dead because of the digital power that consumers now have at their fingertips. My quick response was: “If brands are irrelevant, then why do brands dominate the digital world and still dominate worldwide stock markets?”

My belief is that today brands and branding are more important for cities and destinations than they have ever been. Let me start by referring to the recently released DestinationNEXT industry report by Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI).

The report concludes that one of the transformational opportunities for DMOs to effectively address their changing world is to build and protect the destination brand. Through this focus DMAI advocates that destination branding is neither obsolete nor irrelevant. After all, Coca Cola, P&G, and Kia still have their very effective brand managers. Destination branding isn’t easy. Many efforts have not been done well and more focus is needed to move beyond logos, taglines and advertising themes.

The digital world has not changed or obsoleted the principles of branding but it has magnified everything we know about building a great brand. The fundamentals and principles of branding haven’t changed, however marketing as we have known it has been largely superseded. This means that how we go about brand communications and brand management have changed.

Brand relevance and success still demands that destinations have meaningful differentiation, outstanding experiences and a robust brand platform to guide everyday programs. The days of trying to be all things to all people are over. And there’s no room for generic and bland brands.

Branding has become a whole lot more exciting because digital platforms open a new world for people to experience your destination. Savvy DMOs are tapping social and mobile networks, smart phones and tablets, GPS apps, and myriad other opportunities to reach consumers globally or when they wander the streets of your city. Not to mention the highly emotional and engaging content they can now deploy through their websites using video, audio, photos and real time comments from customers.

In Part Two, we will consider the opportunities and benefits that a brand management approach will open for DMOs and cities of all sizes.

This post is from http://citybranding.typepad.com/

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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