Regional Branding – You have to own something

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.

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When we worked with the Eyre Peninsula there was no shortage of platforms that we could create a brand around, but we know that brands that wish to be a little of everything will eventually amount to a lot of nothing. We steered some deep and meaningful conversations and we landed on a very powerful proposition. Eyre Peninsula has seafood to kill for and it has a rugged pristine environment producing it. They could ‘own’ seafood and they could leverage the rich storytelling that their entrepreneurial and adventurous fishermen live and breathe everyday. But there was also a lot of other food related businesses that were not seafood centric. Grain and lamb producers, olive growers, wineries and
much more, all great examples of excellent produce, but not unique to many other regions in Australia. They did not provide a strong enough point of differentiation.

What was required was a regional brand positioning expression that claimed ownership of seafood and at the same time provided a positive halo effect over the other food and tourism enterprises of the region. The solution came in the form of the following positioning line.’Australia’s Seafood Frontier’. By making it Australia’s Seafood Frontier the Eyre Peninsula claimed ownership of seafood in Australia and at the same time the word Frontier conjured up a feeling of wild, untamed and pristine
– all very positive attributes for the other food and tourism businesses in the region.

We then created a brand book (see example below) that articulated the regional brand values that
those responsible for delivering an on-brand experience, day-in and day-out, would have to live.
The brand values, essence and supporting narrative become a critical rallying point for aligning all
key stakeholders.

If you get the chance visit the Eyre Peninsula and experience Australia’s Seafood Frontier first
hand, you will not only have an amazing time, but you will get to fully appreciate the power of creating
a regional brand around something you can own!

David Ansett
Creator of Brands

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  1. Having been lucky enough to project manage this regional branding project I visited the Eyre Peninsula and experienced Australia’s Seafood Frontier first hand and can only recommend that if you haven’t been there yourself it’s time to pay a visit!

  2. This is an interesting read and it sounds like a great project. I particularly like how you dealt with the fact that everyone wants to be involved by restricting participation in the development process to key stakeholders.

    My only concern is that you haven’t taken into account the needs of your visitors, whether there will be a different approach for domestic and international visitors and also repeat visitors.

    We were tasked with a similar project for a SE Asian country but our research showed that there were 600,000 competing communities in Asia and more than 1,000 regional and national economic development agencies, all competing for visitors. This made it easy for even the most compelling messages to get lost amid all the destination claims.

    We recommended to the client therefore that in this cluttered world, effective branding depends on data and knowledge about current and prospective visitors and not simply on trendy creative campaigns.

    We recommended to our client that choosing the most effective branding strategy depended on sound market & customer research to determine current attitudes and perceptions toward the country among travel agents, previous visitors to the country and those that had never visited the country.

    By understanding the sources of those perceptions and attitudes, we proposed that the client would be better able to evaluate current branding efforts, develop strategies to target high-impact segments with the most potential more effectively, drive internal education and other program development, leverage the emerging medium of the Internet, develop benchmarks to measure branding progress and ensure that resources were used cost-effectively.

    The research could also be used to pinpoint, prioritise and drive community-based branding. A core requirement as consumers spend more time in those communities.

    Initial indications are that this process has been effective as the country reached 2010 visitor targets at the end of 2009.

  3. Interesting use of colour/tones. Same hues often used in adverts for the Financial Times magazine “How to spend it”. Is it aspirational? Does in connote exclusivity verging on exclusion? Is that necessarily the image to be portrayed to successfully grow a broadbased regional economy?

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