Building Destination Brands

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Building Destination Brands: A Global Marketing Perspective

Building Destination Brands: A Global Marketing Perspective


Place branding as a strategic marketing activity has increased significantly over the last quarter century (Ward, 1998). Its application now extends beyond the traditional areas of inward investment and leisure tourism to include a wider role in attracting new residents, new employees and business tourists to a location. It includes both short-term campaigns such as those associated with bids to host specific events - for example, Sidney's successful bid to host the Olympic Games - as well as longer-term repositioning strategies as exemplified in the recent nomination of Liverpool as the “European city of culture” for 2008. Place branding not only applies to cities, regions and countries, but also applies lower down the spatial scale to places such as shopping destinations and leisure parks. It thus covers a wide area of activities and locations and involves a wide range of stakeholders from both the public and private sectors.

As a consequence, the study of place branding also extends across a wide area of academic interest. This interest includes the domains of geography and urban planning which examine the subject from a political economy perspective.

It also includes three other domains that examine the subject from a strategy development perspective and tourism marketing. However, it is in the domain of travel and tourism in particular, that an understanding of the place brand is most developed. From this perspective, places become visitor destinations.

The destination branding literature, however, focuses primarily on leisure tourism. There has been little academic investigation into the branding of places as centres for business tourism - travel associated with attendance at meetings, conferences, exhibitions and incentives events. This is surprising. Many former industrial cities, in both Europe and the USA, have regenerated their economies successfully through investment in these types of facilities. This gap in the research to date is, arguably, a serious omission.

Unlike leisure tourism, which is a business-to-consumer activity, business tourism is a business-to-business activity. Thus, the models developed to help leisure tourism managers, may not be relevant in the context of business tourism. Organisational perceptions may be more commercially oriented, focusing more strongly, for example, on price and the need for specialist facilities. This paper takes steps to address this gap by examining the destination brand from the perspective of business tourism.

The paper begins with an overview of recent models of brands and their components. This draws on published material on branding from both the classical, product-based perspective and the tourism perspective. Interviews with 25 events managers in large corporations, professional bodies and business events agencies have been conducted using a repertory grid analysis and a self-completion questionnaire to evaluate the relevance of these models to business tourism. The conclusions from these interviews, and their implications for the branding of destinations as centres of business tourism, are discussed. The paper concludes with proposals for future research.

Literature Reivew

Classical Branding Theory

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