Top 10 Branding Place Blunders

Branding a community is much more complex than branding a product or service. Not only is the process highly political, it is very emotional. People are deeply connected to the place where they choose to spend their time, their money and their lives. If you’re in the process of branding your state, region, city, town or downtown here are ten things not to do:

1. Make your brand just about a logo and strap line – a logo and strap line alone are not a brand – they are just a brand identity. True branding goes much deeper. It is unrealistic to expect a logo and a line to do all the heavy lifting from a marketing perspective in a community; other branding activities that make the brand a lived experience must be put in place.

2. Proceed without research – branding without research is like building a house without a blueprint. It can be done, but the end result won’t be right. A solid body of qualitative and quantitative research is the only way to determine what your brand essence actually is.

3. Ignore your culture and heritage and focus solely on your aspiration – the best place brands give a community room and resolve to develop, but if you build your brand entirely upon dreams for the future the points of connection will invariably get lost.

4. Engage the press for the first time during the unveiling – the media are essentially vocal stakeholders in your community…with a built-in audience for their opinions. Work to obtain buy-in throughout the process by involving them in various aspects of the research.

5. Brand by committee – branding is not about compromise or even consensus. It is about determining the strong singular message that will define your community. The quickest route to a watered-down brand is trying to please all the people all the time.

6. Apply strict controls for usage by private sector and other public agencies – brand usage cannot be a free for all, but if you are too controlling few organizations will want to embrace it. Leave room for customization so people can feel like they really own it.

7. Reveal your brand to the public without stakeholder buy-in – before launching your brand, launch an educational campaign to build grassroots support for the effort among stakeholders. This turns community influencers into advocates rather than adversaries.

8. Have your community vote among several logo choices or make a contest of creating your community’s strapline – this is branding by committee taken to the extreme and the fastest way to disenfranchise your citizens is by asking for their input and then ignoring it.

9. Brand it yourself – self-branding is a little bit like self-analysis. As part of the community, you are too close to the situation to clearly identify and solve the problems.

10. Announce the brand without some high-profile implementation – unveiling the brand before you have brought it to life in some high-profile ways is asking for a lukewarm response and often criticism of a community’s ability to follow-through.

Staying away from these pitfalls will help your place branding go more smoothly and stay on track.