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.
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!