How do you brand a location and what role can digital media play in that endeavor? These are some of the main topics explored by representatives of The Duffy Agency as they hosted a delegation of city officials, academics and marketers from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Our day started at Malmö city hall comparing notes with city officials involved in the branding of the Malmö/ Copenhagen (a.k.a. Öresund) Region. Officials from the region walked us through Malmö’s 20-year transition from a blue-collar ship building city to a mecca for IT and knowledge-based industries. The transformation and subsequent rebranding of the city has been a success. Today, more firms choose Malmö over Stockholm for a number of reasons including logistics, transportation, work force and proximity to the rest of Europe.
Lunch was served at The Duffy Agency along with a spirited discussion on the importance of using the web in new ways to promote location brands. The agency presented a few case studies of how gamification and other online tactics could be used to promote regions. Professor Veronika Tarnovskaya, herself a native of St. Petersberg, described her work with Sean Duffy to introduce education in online marketing to masters students at the Lund University School of Economics and Management.
So what was learned? Traditional tourism websites don’t work. People are much more likely to seek out peer reviews to plan their itinerary. Destination sites need to engage the traveler in new ways, and further efforts must be made to reach out via online networking and high-engagement campaigns. Although many people don’t think of cities like brands, they operate under the same market pressures as beer or shampoo. If a city wants to attract the right people, companies and projects then they need to target, break through the media clutter, communicate and shape perceptions just like any other brand. And just like other brands they have to ensure that at the end of the day the product lives up to the promotion.
It was an inspiring day that ended with much discussion about future cooperation in both academic and branding pursuits.