Branding a place or a region is no different to product or service branding – you have to own something that is distinctive and compelling to your target market. However, when it comes to regional branding there is an added complication. You have to balance the competing needs of a diverse set of stakeholders because the people and businesses that make up the region simply do not always see the world through the same lens. Different mental models, different types and sizes of businesses, different levels of self interest and all that before one even layers in the different egos at play. A lot of stakeholders and lot of emotion makes for interesting branding.
With such a diverse range of stakeholders, the developers of regional brands need to adopt a strategic and pragmatic approach. For a start there needs to be recognition that not all stakeholders will be of equal value in building a world famous regional brand, that the 80:20 rule is well and truly alive. Certainly the team we worked with on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia understood this point. Led by the regional Development Board, the regional branding process started with identifying those businesses that were considered mission critical to being on-board. Clearly your preference is to have everyone on board, but it can also be a very liberating feeling if instead you identify the 20% of stakeholders who will give you 80% of the bang, you can then immediately narrow your focus. And of course the law of attraction always works, enlist the shakers and movers and others will want to jump on board anyway. Once you have the right people involved there is a need to explore what makes up the region, what makes it a special place. Is it nature’s gifts, is it food producers, is it the unique experiences on offer, is it wine, is it a combination.