Tourism Brands and City Brands: Friends or Enemies?

Let’s say you’re a bright eyed tourism bureau/destination marketing organization looking to do a re-brand or update your tourism branding campaign.

So you do your research, profile your best customer, punch up your messaging, and whip up some wicked cool creative. In a few months, you’ve got yourself a brilliant new tourism campaign. But less than a year later, the city council or the chamber of commerce announces its intentions to develop a new city brand/campaign that has absolutely nothing to do with tourism. Zero. Nada. Now what?

Tourism marketers and municipal marketers – even when they are one in the same person or team – often find themselves grappling with the built-in tension that can exist between city branding and tourism branding because the objectives of each are completely unrelated to each other. Let’s take a quick look at what each brand entails:

“Come Live or Work In Our City”
“Our city is a great place to live or work or locate your business” is the typical bottom line of most municipal brand campaigns. Brand talking points are usually centered around:
• Tax rates
• School systems
• Availability of affordable/up-market housing
• Family-friendliness
• The availability of public transportation/walkability
• The city’s proximity to attractions/amenities in other parts of the region
• City lifestyle
• Things to do

“Visit Our City”
Generally speaking, tourism branding usually boils down to “You need to come visit us, here’s why”. The messaging is usually focused on:
• Things to do
• Unique experiences/lifetime memories
• Availability of affordable/up-market hotels
• Public transportation/walkability (in some cases)
• The city’s proximity to attractions in other parts of the region
• City lifestyle (in some cases)

If you’re a tourism or destination marketer who is trying to reconcile conflict between city and tourism brands, or you’re looking for ways to make the two campaigns work together, there are three action items that should always be at the top of your brand cooperation agenda:

Put yourself in a position of influence.
If your tourism bureau is thinking about a new campaign, or you are seeing indicators that the city or chamber is thinking about starting one, get proactive and reach out with an offer of collaboration – and be specific about what you’d like the collaboration to look like. Be sure and include a rundown of the advantages of working together (possible shared resources, potential interplay between the two brands, stronger strategic thinking, etc.).

Look for synergy.
Sometimes the first instinct of a tourism marketer who is forced to deal with a municipal brand is to fight it, ignore it, or run away, especially if the municipal brand is already in existence and wasn’t created with any thought given to tourism objectives. However, as you can see from the breakdown above, there are actually a lot of intersections where tourism and municipal marketing meet up with each other. Approaching your brand cooperation from a perspective of “let’s talk about those intersections” can often illuminate opportunities for mutual benefit that won’t show themselves if you’re locked in a combat mode.

Use your data.
Data can really come in handy in cases where the tourism bureau has got a real problem on their hands in the form of a mandate to adopt wholesale a city brand campaign, or to incorporate elements of the city campaign that don’t make sense for tourism. You’ll have a much better chance of prevailing against such unwise mandates when you can pull out data about your best visitors, your digital marketing analytics, your direct mail campaign results and so forth. This data, when presented strategically, will quickly make it clear that forcing the “live here/work here” brand on tourism marketing tactics just won’t work.

MindEcology knows tourism and destination marketing like no one’s business – and we can help you with your municipal marketing, too. Whether you’re one at war with the other or the best of friends, let’s talk shop.