As Europe struggles to come to terms with Brexit, Asean celebrates 50 years


Citynationplace is one of the most respected nation branding forums on the Iot and is also the organiser of the must attend place branding conference held in the UK in November every year.

This month they’ve asked a number of brand consultants in Asia about Asean@50 about the state of nation branding in the region and the potential of Asean countries to work together to drive tourism and investment to the region. You can read the full article here

As I was one of the consultants interviewed, I thought I’d have a look at what Asean is doing to drive visitors to the region as part of the Asean@50 celebrations. The primary goal of the campaign is to encourage visitors to look at visiting more than one ASEAN destination.

The introduction to my comments on nation branding in Asia
The introduction to my comments on nation branding in Asia

As part of the celebrations for its 50th anniversary, ASEAN has created a theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”. There is also a collaborative tourism campaign: “Visit ASEAN@50: Golden Celebration”.

I’m yet to see this campaign in Malaysia or Singapore but a new website has been created however it doesn’t seem to feature too much information. On the events page, there were no events for Malaysia in March and none till October.

For visitors to use the site, there needs to be plenty of the right information
For visitors to use the site, there needs to be plenty of the right information

There’s also another tagline for South East Asia “Feel the warmth”. This is featured on the Asean Tourism website. I couldn’t find a Facebook page however the hashtag #visitasean50 has appeared on Facebook but there doesn’t appear to be any structure to any of the communications.

There are a couple of videos on YouTube, one of which has been shared about 40,000 times on Facebook but again there doesn’t seem to be any strategy behind any of the postings.

A Twitter page was created in July 2014 but it appears inactive.

I don’t have the full details on the project and we are only at the end of the first quarter of 2017 so the strategy maybe to start later in the year although many in the northern hemisphere will be planning their holidays now so the digital representation needs to be improved and improved quickly.

Penang’s destination video isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. 6 ways to use video properly to build your destination brand


Google the words ‘Visit Penang’ and you get the following results:

'Visit Penang' search results
‘Visit Penang’ search results

The next step would be to click on the visitpenang website link that takes the visitor to a site that has no video on the homepage even though a video on a homepage is reported to increase conversion rates by more than 20%.

Indeed, the way consumers are absorbing information via video is well documented. According to YouTube reports, mobile video consumption rises 100% every year. Of course that will peak at some stage but it isn’t even slowing at the moment. In fact, more video content is uploaded in 30 days than all three major US TV networks combined created in the last 30 years.

And when it comes to travel and destination related videos, YouTube is the most used site with 79% of users looking at personal travel options. YouTube says that 66% of all travellers watch online films when they are thinking of taking a trip.

Someone sent me a link to a new tourism video for Penang and asked my opinion. The video, launched earlier this year lists a number of quotes stretching back to one from Yahoo in 2011. I presume the video is supposed to lure more visitors to the island but I couldn’t make out who it is targetted at.

I get the impression that it’s one of those ads designed to communicate with everyone that ends up communicating with no one. Yes it features everything that is well known about Penang but it didn’t bring us anything not already on the web. Penang is known for its Char Kway Teow and the dish is featured in the video but who is going to travel to Penang for a plate of noodles and besides, is it new?

Moreover, there are more popular, well established Vloggers on YouTube such as Roseanntangrs who have over a million followers including a Vlog about Penang food that has over 160,000 views (and plenty of negative comments that need to be addressed by the author). This would have been a smart channel to use to promote Penang food.

Here’s the Penang video. I feel like it’s about 20 years out of date, it’s like a TV commercial pushed out across digital.

It’s a real shame because Penang is a must visit destination for anyone coming to South East Asia. I felt this video didn’t do justice to the destination.

Inevitably after watching this I had to search YouTube to see if it was the worst tourism ad ever. I was surprised to find plenty of material including this one from Singapore that really is the worst destination ad I’ve ever seen or heard.

I don’t know what Singapore Tourism was doing when it commissioned this ad but it very thoughtfully pulled it off the visit Singapore site.

Thankfully or not, depending on your point of view, YouTube hasn’t been so considerate. Stick with it to the end because the punchline will have you heading for cringetowm.

Penang’s video isn’t as bad as Singapores but it will be as inneffective. Indeed after seven months it has only had 9,500 views. But what should Penang tourism’s approach be when developing destination videos?

Here are 6 top tips Fusionbrand recommends Penang take into account next time they want to use video as part of their brand strategy:

1) You can’t be all things to all people. And you can’t include everything about a destination in one video so don’t try. Hook the viewer with the first video and YouTube will do the rest of the work for you because they will link similar videos to the one the viewer first watched.

2) Think about the audience for your film. What will they want to get from a film about your destination and how can you make the content relevant to their needs? Because if it doesn’t resonate with a few seconds, they’ll move on.

3) Think about how travellers use the IoT. Basically it begins with explore and discover before moving onto consider and connect. That’s followed by evaluate and engage and finally adopt, buyin, embrace and share/endorse/advocate. You must be clear about what part of the buyer process your videos are aiming at and the content must reflect that. Don’t try and cover everything in one video.

4) Be real and human. The days of the corporate controlled ‘big idea’ and message pushed out across media are over. Consumers don’t believe it and besides, it’s been done to death. Instead show events that happen during filming, things that go wrong and the people involved in the filming.

5) Instead of spending your money on expensive production of one video, make it real and make it often. Publish and share film on an ongoing basis.

6) Creating the video is only the start. You then need to share it, comment, respond, write about it and so on. An editorial plan should be developed around all videos.

Videos the future, for now anyway. But destinations like Penang need to stand out, not add to the noise. Otherwise branding investments are wasted and tax payers funds are too important to waste.

15 things you didn’t know about TripAdvisor


TripAdvisor is 15 years old today. TripAdvisor has been at the heart of the revolution in destination branding and is responsible for changing the culture of travel and the travel related decision making process. It has ripped up the hospitality industry manual and forced the industry to focus on delivering value to customers rather than promising to deliver value.

According to comScore, TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site and together with it’s stable of 24 other travel brands including SeatGuru, Tingo and Family Vacation Critic gains 315 million unique monthly visits. And those visitors have created more than 200 million reviews of over 4.5 million destinations.

TripAdvisor broke loose from parent company Expedia in 2011 with an IPO valued at US$4 billion. As IPOs go it was a quiet one but TripAdvisor is a successful business with annual sales last year of US$354 million, up 39% over the previous year and now has a market capitalisation of US$12.7 billion.

Thanks to the Daily Telegraph for 15 things you might not have known about this enourmously successful site.

Do Nation or City Brand rankings offer any real value?


Florian Kaefer who owns the excellent Place Brand Observer Blog drew my attention to a cracking Blog post written by Eduardo Oliviera on the Place Brands Blog.

In his post, Eduardo writes extensively on the number of country and city brand indexes and barometers as well as newspaper ‘best place to be’ and ‘best place to swim’ tables and their rankings and notes that they all use different methodologies and algorithms. Unsurprisingly the rankings differ from one to another and he wonders whether their rankings offer any real benefit.

He says, “The practice of place branding continues this ‘ranking fetish’. People seem to set great stock in rankings or lists such as ‘best of’ or ‘top 10′. But in reality these rankings don’t have as much power as people think. They simply divert focus, resources and effort from what is truly important in place branding.”

He goes on to say, “In the same line of reasoning investors are influenced in their decisions both by very material, quantitative issues (in particular costs and labour force) but also by the reputation of places.”

About the only part of his post that I disagree with is that last comment because as long as the place doesn’t have a seriously bad reputation – and even then there are investors willing to invest – if it offers specific value to an investor that investor will invest.

I’m preparred to get off the fence and say these rankings are meaningless. They have zero impact on a nation or city brand. You cannot create place brand reputation but you can influence it. It grows organically thanks to multiple components that can be influenced and often steered by the very people and other stakeholders invested in the place brand.

Ultimately it has to offer economic, experiential and emotional value to the relevant stakeholder, both internal or external and if it does it can overcome serious setbacks. Which is why countries like America can invade Iraq and upset the Muslim world and still be the number one destination for overseas education for students from Islamic countries.

It has brand credit that has built up over time and it will take a lot to erode that credit. But that credit is intangible and doesn’t need to be measured. What city and nation brands have to focus on is delivering that economic, experiential and emotional value, based on the individuals requirements for that value and they will build a brand that will be the best place to invest, eat in, sleep in, skateboard in and so on.

Another example of how consumers are building destination brands


This interactive ‘heat map’ shows which tourist attraction at every destination around the world is photographed the most.

There are as many as 1,000 photographs in some countries with New York’s Guggenheim Museum the most photographed landmark in the world.

The most phtographed landmark in the world
The most phtographed landmark in the world

In Singapore the Merlion is the most photographed landmark whilst in Kuala Lumpur it is, rather unsurprisingly the Twin Towers. In Bangkok it’s the Wat Sraket Rajavaravihara and in Kuching it is the Sarawak river.

The Merlion, popular with tourists in Singapore
The Merlion, popular with tourists in Singapore

What does this site mean to the business of destination branding? Well primarily it will drive traffic away from tourism board sites and their carefully choreographed images to consumer sites and there peer to peer content.

Those destinations that continue to focus their funds on corporate driven strategies or groups of tactics instead of encouraging engagement across social sites and consumer generated content will lose business which in turn will lead to reduced revenue for the many businesses that benefit from tourism.

Building a country brand requires more than just a well executed advertising campaign


If you are responsible for a country or destination brand, read on.

As cheap air travel and the package tour (as well as the devaluation of the Spanish Peseta and the abolition of currency controls in the UK) helped jump start international travel in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the world was still a fairly predictable place and countries were, on the whole inhabited mainly by citizens of that country and not by the multicultural citizens living in most cities today.

Moreover, due to the social and economic structure of Western countries, consumers were only just beginning to have disposable income that allowed them to experience the concept of leisure time.

At the same time, mass media was becoming increasingly influential as consumers purchased more and more TVs and radios.

So, with more disposable income, more leisure time and the establishment of commercial television, it was now possible to reach large swathes of a population reasonably quickly and relatively inexpensively.

In this environment countries put their faith in creativity to build brands, hoping that an exotic image, tagline or promotion would resonate with prospects and increase visitor arrivals.

And generally, because of the cultural and social predictability of countries, the same message could be used to communicate with everyone.

Moreover, with few conduits to increasingly wealthy consumers who had more disposable income than ever before and with limited competition in the market place, this type of creative driven branding often raised the profile of countries enough to attract visitors.

Countries and destinations such as Spain, the UK, Kenya, Florida, Greece, The Algarve, Singapore and Italy as well as many other destinations used this approach. And in this mass market economy, mass media – TV, Print, Outdoor, with its huge reach, was the logical vehicle to enhance the impact of creative-driven branding with reach and repetition.

bemuda

italy

Early tourism ads worked because markets were similar, new, eager and easy to reach
Early tourism ads worked because markets were similar, new, eager and easy to reach

But that mass-market economy no longer exists. Today’s consumers are increasingly overwhelmed with those creative images, taglines and promotions. And many of the messages have become so similar that it is virtually impossible to differentiate one from another. And of course, consumers have also become fed up with countries failing to deliver on promises made.

Same images, sames messages = irrelevant

Despite this new world order, countries, agencies and consultants continue to try and build country brands by using ‘cool’ advertising, creative or symbolic logo’s with pretty colours, catchy taglines and so on.

But these activities are nothing more than advertising campaigns and do very little to build a nation brand. And even the one’s that have made us sit up, take notice and seek more information are more often than not soon forgotten or overtaken by a new campaign from a competitor destination or the recommendation of a friend.

But most worrying of all, these advertising campaigns lull countries into a false sense of security. ‘Visitor arrivals are up so everything is good in the world’. The problem is that an advertising campaign might draw the attention of visitors to a destination but it doesn’t build a destination brand.

An advertising campaign may be important but it is part of what should be a well researched and planned brand strategy that takes into account all brand related activities.

These include internal buy in and a thorough understanding of external stakeholder requirements for value and other elements such as content development, social media, PR and most important of all for a country, crisis management. Traditional communications pushed out across traditional and digital media, may still have a role to play, but they are not a total solution.

Sadly, too many countries and destinations have short cut the process to try and get their ads out quickly. This has resulted in the demise of the brand strategy. Yet failure to invest in such a brand strategy can be detrimental to the long term success of the brand.

A case in point. The Maldives has invested more than US$10 million in the last three years on advertising itself as a luxury destination. But in 2012, political turmoil saw arrivals from the lucrative European markets fall, with the UK registering a 12.2% drop. If it weren’t for a sharp rise in low yield arrivals from China, the Maldives would probably have registered a major drop in arrivals.

To the detriment of the country, participants or perhaps victims of the political turmoil in the Maldives called for a boycott of the tourism business and attempts by the new government to develop the tourism business are constantly thwarted by opponents.

One example was when the Twitter hashtag #sunnysideoflife (the official tagline) was hijacked and brochures entitled ‘The cloudy side of life’ threw scorn on tourism players and drew the readers attention to human rights abuses and police brutality against Maldivians.

This year has seen further negative press after a 15 year old girl raped by her stepfather and sexually abused by other men was sentenced to 100 lashes for having pre marital sex.

So far the Maldives government hasn’t responded, leading one to suspect they don’t have a brand strategy with a crisis plan to deal with such a situation. What is certainly true is that this complicated issue will not be solved with an advertising campaign.

In 2012 Jakarta initiated an advertising campaign across Asia in an attempt to attract visitors to the capital and largest city in Indonesia. The campaign was poorly planned, conceived and executed. You can read more about the Jakarta campaign here.

Based on the advertising campaign and the website, it is fairly safe to assume these two elements were not part of a brand strategy.

Does this ad make you want to get more information on Jakarta?
Does this ad make you want to get more information on Jakarta?
Lack of integration and poor content suggests little or no planning
Lack of integration and poor content suggests little or no planning

India is famous for its ‘Incredible India’ campaign launched in 2002. By 2009, India was spending US$200 million advertising the country. This iconic advertising campaign is still going strong and in November 2012 at the World Travel Market in London and to great fanfare, India announced a new advertising campaign headlined, “Find what you seek”.

Early 'incredible India' ads - excellent execution
Early ‘incredible India’ ads – excellent execution

Officially launched by the new Indian minister of tourism at a hotel in London in front of 400 guests, the new Incredible India campaign highlighted to consumers ‘that they will find whatever they are looking for from a holiday in India.’

The Minister of Tourism India launches the new Incredible India campaign, a week later 10 years of advertising were lost due to a lack of planning for disasters

It was also announced at the launch event that the goal of the campaign is to increase international arrivals by 12% annual till 2016.

Little more than a month later, in December 2012 in Delhi a woman was brutally gang raped and left for dead on a public bus. The story made headlines around the world.

And then in March 2013, a Swiss woman was gang raped whilst on a cycling tour of Madhya Pradesh and soon after, a British woman was attacked in Delhi and only avoided further suffering after jumping from a hotel window to escape.

Within a matter of weeks, tour operators were reporting a 35% cancellation rate from women and a 25% drop in all arrivals with multiple cancellations from the lucrative markets of Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States.

Much of the outrage toward these events is related to the treatment of woman in India and numerous stories that would not normally feature on international news are now making headlines globally including the stoning, arrests and murder of Indian women. None of these events will be addressed by advertising.

If you are responsible for developing a Nation, country or destination brand, don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security over a ‘successful’ advertising and promotions campaign telling the world how great is your country or destination.

To build a strong brand amid increasing international competition and unforeseen circumstances that are carried across social media and possibly across mass media as well, destinations must have in place a well defined brand strategy that covers all potential scenarios and doesn’t just focus on communications.

A brand strategy has other benefits. Here are five more reasons for developing a brand strategy:

1) A brand strategy clearly defines the organisation values and promises and ensures stakeholders understand what is required of them to deliver on those promises and values. For a nation brand this internal branding is critical to the success of the brand.
2) Staying with the internal brand, lots of tourism boards and CVBs attend trade shows but if I had a pound for every time I’ve been to ITB or WTM and seen poorly trained personnel representing countries or states, I’d be a very wealthy man. Trade shows cost a lot of money. A brand strategy will ensure training occurs at the best possible time.
3) A brand strategy ensures the brand is ready for every eventuality, with a crisis plan to address issues such as those that have happened in India, the Maldives and most recently, Boston.
4) A brand strategy ensures all stakeholders are pulling in the same direction. If one state is targeting visitors at the same time as another state, resources are being wasted. A brand strategy will ensure integration and engagement, not individual tactics.
5) A brand strategy ensures time isn’t wasted on stand alone tactical initiatives implemented at the whim of a government servant or other person who should know better.

Far too many countries or destinations give the responsibility of building their brand to creative advertising agencies. These agencies are called advertising agencies for a reason. They do advertising.

Good consumer generated content will build destination brands better than any corporate commercials


It’s well documented how numerous companies waste huge amounts of money on ineffective advertising. Generally the advertising is ineffective because it is poorly written, isn’t tested or has been developed to appeal to as many vastly different segments as possible.

This is especially true of country brands. If I had £1 for every ‘me too’ destination advertisement that I’ve seen on TV, heard on radio or seen on a website, I’d be a rich man. Time and time again I see beautifully executed ads for destinations such as Thailand, Egypt, Malta, Malaysia, Bali and others that are all selling the same things – beautiful white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and cloudless blue skies.

These ads are pushed out across traditional media in the hope that enough people will see them, buy into them and eventually visit the country. If the campaign doesn’t work (and no one knows whether they work or not), the agency is generally sacked, a new one appointed and the whole process starts again.

Basically this model uses Hope as a strategy – hope the timing is right, hope it will be seen, hope it will be liked, hope it will be remembered, hope it will influence viewers enough to reject previous choices, hope the destination will be researched, hope the inevitable competitors that are seen at the same time will not influence viewers, hope this and hope that.

But it doesn’t need to be like that anymore. In the social media era, when consumers not countries define brands and the Internet provides copius amounts of information from other like minded consumers to help influence the decision making process, destinations need to be reaching out across this channel and leveraging consumer produced media to market themselves.

This approach requires a massive mindset change and will revolutionise the traditional organisational hierarchy but it has to start soon or destinations will lose the increasingly brutal competition for heads in beds.

To illustrate this point, I came across one video that is an outstanding advertisement for Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. It didn’t cost the Malaysian Tourism Board a penny and is a far better advertisement than any advertising agency produced Television Commercial.

Tourism Malaysia needs to have a community team scouring the web for such content and must then distribute such content across multiple channels to generate buzz and interest. This content will allow destinations to engage directly with influencers and other consumers in a way that traditional media does not allow them to.

This really is an impressive video. I suspect that after you watch it, Malaysia will go to the top of your list of must visit destinations.

Enjoy!

<a href="

Kuala Lumpur DAY-NIGHT from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

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Destination branding for small cities


Back in 2007, Destination Branding consultant Bill Baker released one of the best ‘how to’ books for city branding practitioners, mayors, planners, governors and anyone else tasked with or interested in the branding of cities.

‘Destination Branding for Small Cities: The Essentials for Successful Place Branding’ was so successful that he has updated it and you can find the updated version on amazon here

Bill Baker, defining the city branding process from the trenches

Bill understands better than most that city branding is much more than a logo, tag line or a communications exercise. With more than 30 years experience branding destinations, Bill outlines and explains the complexities of developing a place brand, the research needed, the stakeholders involved and the importance of developing a well defined strategy.

With plenty of case studies and comments from other practitioners (My contribution is below), this book should be required reading not only of practioners and government servants but also of students of marketing and branding.

Here’s my contribution to the book:
Singapore and Hong Kong have built internationally respected brands. This was achieved not by using creative taglines or cool advertising campaigns, but through their holistic approach to the process of branding.

Other Asian cities can benefit by emulating their practices through a better understanding of the elements required to build a destination brand and by having a more customer-centered approach.

Unfortunately, when it comes to destination branding, too many Asian cities have a top-down focus with a fixation on taglines or a brand essence or a one size fits all communications campaign that develops what it thinks is an interesting message that tries to speak to everyone, but really speak to no one.

As an example, in an attempt to boost tourism, the State government of Perak in Malaysia announced that the state capital, Ipoh would be known as the ‘City of White Coffee’.

Ipoh – city of white coffee. Would this tempt you to visit Ipoh?

A State executive said at the time, “Ipoh should have its own identity and branding just like Shenzhen (China) that is known as the “Shoe City” and Paris which has long been known as the “City of Fashion”. This shows a lack of understanding of what is destination branding and is an unrealistic expectation and hardly a concept to drive significant tourism growth.

I wrote an article about how to brand Ipoh, a beautiful city with massive potential and only a couple of hours north of Kuala Lumpur at the end of 2010. You can read the article here.

Similarly, the large Indonesian city of Surabaya has developed the tagline, ‘Sparkling Surabaya’ in an attempt to communicate the sparkling of the city as a centre for jewelry.

Surubaya tagline

In addition to being rather naive, the idea was controversial because citizens felt that the concept did not fully represent their city. A more thorough branding process might have helped avoid this situation.

On the other hand, the branding of the city of Zamboanga in the Philippines as ‘Asia’s Latin City’ has gained wide endorsement because it speaks well to the city’s culture and strong Latin influence, and appeals to external audiences as well.

The globally accepted principles of place branding are certainly valid in Asia however, the level of their application is very patchy at best.

Few demonstrate what can be considered ‘best practice’, and too many are influenced by basic misunderstandings concerning the practice and processes required, and how a city brand should be communicated and perform.

In general, too many see city branding as simply a tourism driven creative advertising campaign or a new slogan pushed out across traditional media.

How to brand a city like Ipoh


Senior Executive Councillor Datuk Hamidah Osman of The Perak state government in Malaysia announced on a trade and investment mission to China recently that the state government, in an effort to boost its tourism industry, intends to brand Ipoh, the capital of Perak as the “City of White Coffee”.

Datuk Hamidah was quoted by Bernama “ Perak should have its own identity and branding just like Shenzhen that is known as the “Shoe City” and Paris which has long been known as the “City of Fashion”.

In conjunction with the plan, Datuk Hamidah said, “We plan to have a food fair to be held in Ipoh this December. The idea is to promote the local foods and tourism industry. We have the best bean sprout chicken rice and chee cheong fun (rice rolls),” she added.

Faced with increased domestic and international competition for both tourists and FDI, there is no doubt that Ipoh and Perak, need to develop a destination brand. But that brand must be based on a platform of multiple tourist attractions and business potential.

Set amongst picturesque limestone scenery, a diverse selection of tourist attractions include Kellie’s Castle, Perak Museum, Ipoh railway station, Tambun hot springs, Taiping lake gardens and Zoo, and more, Ipoh and the rest of the state have a lot to offer.

Other destinations include Pangkor and Pangkor Laut, Bukit Larut and others. Perak also has a rich heritage that can be promoted, including silver and tin mining. It is historically known as an innovator, having pioneered such advances as the first rubber trees in Malaysia and was also the first state in Malaysia to go wireless.

The tagline ‘City of white coffee’ certainly differentiates Ipoh from other destinations but what else does it tell potential visitors, businesses or investors? How can stories be developed around the tagline, who are the target market? How will it be communicated? If it is a one-size-fits all approach, it’ll need significant resources to communicate the new tagline. Have budgets been agreed and so on?

Today, Destination branding is not based on a tagline. Destination branding must be based on experiences that are successfully delivered to specific segments and not based on attempts to market all places to all people.

Research and data are critical to understand tourist and other stakeholder requirements before developing strategies and not the other way around.

Stakeholder buy-in is critical for brand consistency and fulfillment of the brand promise. As an example, how can a hotel contribute to the proposed approach? How can the same hotel leverage the approach to grow it’s business?

Branding is a long term coordinated and integrated strategic exercise and not a tagline. One-size-fits-all strategies using mass media are no longer effective.

Planning is essential to coordinate initiatives, ensure accountability and avoid wasting resources. Without a plan, activities will be reactive and tactical.

What Ipoh and other cities need is a consistent and organized methodology to brand themselves as domestic and international destinations.

Here is one approach that would definitely help Ipoh:

Stage one: Carry out extensive research
Research develops data on key success factors, generates insights and what current and prospective visitors seek, and provides benchmarks to measure branding ROI. The research should consist of the following activities

1) Destination analysis: Key members of the hotel industry, government bodies, local business associations and representatives of major attractions should be confidentially interviewed. The interview will be based on an agenda designed to explore a number of issues related to the city

2) Visitor audit: Carry out interviews with current and past visitors. Other groups can also be selected, such as conference organisers. The interviews will focus on the experiences and motivations associated with Ipoh, information resources, and suggestions for increasing tourist value.

Special attention will be paid to how they researched Ipoh, what they have heard or told others about Ipoh and the channels or vehicles used to tell them. Additionally, representative travel agents in Ipoh will be interviewed about tourist experiences and requirements. Online surveys will be useful to research baseline perceptions of brand Ipoh.

3) Place audit: A place audit will identify Ipoh’s economic/ demographic characteristics, review major attractions (including strengths and weaknesses of the attractions) and outline all brand assets. The place audit will also look to identify product potential.

4) Communications audit: A comprehensive analysis of the channels, vehicles and materials, both digital and print, current and proposed that are or will be used to communicate with both consumers and businesses.

Stage 2: Ensure community buy-in and set internal branding requirements
Community and other stakeholder buy-in is important both for delivery of the brand promise, development and ongoing funding. Stakeholders must be communicated with and input from stakeholders must be incorporated so that they understand that they play an important role in initial and ongoing brand development.

Such buy-in can be accomplished through a variety of activities, including “townhall” or other community meetings, private presentations and media briefings. Initial research findings and recommendations can be discussed as a basis for soliciting input.

Additionally, community buy-in requires a group of citizens, business people, and local and regional government officials. This planning group will:

• Define and diagnose the community’s condition, major issues and potential solutions

• Develop a long-term brand vision based on a realistic assessment of the community’s values, resources and opportunities

• Work to develop a long-term plan of action involving intermediate stages of investment and transformation

Stage 3: Brand plan development
The results of the research and community buy-in will be incorporated into a comprehensive plan for Brand Ipoh. This customized brand plan serves as a strategic framework for all marketing activities, messages, metrics, timetables and proposed budgets. Special attention should be paid to digital branding and product development to get previous visitors to return again.

Stage 4: Comprehensive and segment-specific execution & measurement
Unfortunately this is where most destination begin their brand strategy. Once the brand plan is in place, execution begins. The execution operates on two overlapping fronts – general and segment-specific:

General: General branding represents the ongoing efforts to ensure visibility and provide value to prospects, agents and visitors, as well as gather data, ensure continuous performance and maintain reporting.

Segment-specific: Segment-specific branding concentrates on two areas where it is important to establish and maintain strong relationships. These include existing customers/visitors, and target-rich segments such as families, agents, previous visitors, etc. The actual segments to be targeted will have been defined in the brand plan.

I appreciate that many cities will view this as a daunting and potentially expensive task. But it will not be as expensive as numerous one size fits all communications based on a tagline that tries to speak to all but really speaks to none.