In this piece, we will look at how to evaluate the effectiveness of branding activities by measuring place brand success. Due to the complicated links between branding, customer behaviour, and economic value, measuring location branding activities can be extremely difficult. Take a look at our most recent article.
Place branding is the process of creating a clear,Guest Posting consistent, and compelling image for a specific place so people can readily identify its distinct identity. It differs from corporate brand management in that it focuses on the external perceptions of the place rather than an organization’s offer. Branding places have become big business, with billions being spent annually on attempts to improve the perception of places in the hope it will make them more attractive to investors, businesses, visitors, and residents.
How to Assess the Success of Place Branding Efforts and Why and How to Track Them
Place branding is a dynamic, complex process. To create a destination’s brand and position in the destination-marketing mix, destination marketers often use multiple tactics and tools in their efforts to communicate and distinguish an area from other places to influence stakeholders’ destination choices. Destination marketers must determine which place-branding initiatives are most likely to meet their destination’s goals.
One of the most effective ways to assess the effectiveness of a destination branding initiative is by tracking measures that track destination brand associations and destination brand engagement. Destination brand associations refer to all characteristics, images, feelings, and other mental representations people have about a destination about its place brand positioning statement or position. Measures associated with destination brand associations should assess the degree to which the message and positioning of a place’s brand are effectively communicated. Destination brand engagement refers to how frequently people travel or consider traveling to the destination and interact with the messaging and positioning of its place brand.
Measures associated with destination brand engagement should track desired traveler behavior such as visitation, purchase consideration, visitation intensity, and referrals. Destination marketers can gather data on destination brand associations and engagement through surveys, field observation, social media analysis, image-analysis research, event audits, consumer/stakeholder interviews, or visitor intercepts.
Some of the most widely used measures related to place branding are satisfied with the physical environment (e.g., physical attributes, economic/social offerings, safety) and visitors’ willingness to recommend the destination to others. There are several other measures that have been used to effectively track place branding efforts including evaluation of the distinctive qualities or differences compared with competing destinations, personal interest in visiting a place, overall city imagestrength, visitor loyalty to a place’s brand, willingness to pay more for a product, and participation in community activities.
Satisfaction with the physical environment is an important measure of place brand success because it indicates that the destination’s attributes are appropriately communicating its positioning. Satisfaction can be measured based on traveler assessments of economic/social offerings, transportation and infrastructure, attractions and venues, natural resources and scenic beauty, and housing. Visitors’ willingness to recommend a destination can be measured using economic theory-based scales that measure the referral intention level of visitors who have experienced the place in the recent past or intended future visitors.
What are the difficulties involved in assessing place branding success?
There are many challenges associated with assessing the effectiveness of place branding initiatives.
First, measuring attitudes and behaviors that influence decisions related to destination choice is challenging because it requires accurate associations between a destination’s attributes and its economic value. Spatial interactions, human behavior, economic development theory about consumer choice, and economic value factors all play a role in how visitors experience a place, interact with it, and make economic decisions about where to go.
Second, there are often cultural differences between destination stakeholders’ perceptions of the brand positioning versus actual brand positioning due to language barriers, cultural norms that promote different values, or economic pressures that may influence how stakeholders communicate or express themselves.
Third, economic value is hard to measure, especially when it is part of the “experience economy” where economic value may be less tangible. Tourism research evidence shows that economic value depends on numerous factors including physical attributes, economic opportunities, market conditions, and consumer perceptions.
Fourth, destination brand associations are influenced by many factors that are sometimes difficult to control for in research, including economic conditions, the economic value of the destination at each point in time, external economic forces on travel (e.g., fuel prices), and visitor expectations.
How can these difficulties be overcome?
The following are some suggestions to consider when trying to measure place brand success:
Utilize data that are collected for other purposes
Where possible, triangulate economic value measures
Engage in multi-method research to increase confidence in findings
Think beyond economic metrics in measuring place brand success
Measuring place brand success is a critical step in evaluating the effectiveness of branding efforts. Measuring place branding efforts can be particularly challenging due to the complex relationships between branding, consumer behavior, and economic value. However, these challenges can be overcome by focusing on a variety of places to visit and experiences available in the destination–such as city districts, neighborhoods, or city-wide promotions. Understanding how visitors interact with a place over time is important for measuring success because it measures “repeat visitation”, not just a visitor’s initial impression of a place. Finally, recognizing the diverse perspectives of stakeholders through different research methods helps to improve understanding of place branding success.