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The Importance of Branding Your Place

Liberland flag

The Free Republic of Liberland, a new European “micro-nation” located between Serbia and Croatia, made headlines across the globe last month. While much of the attention was focused on the 2.7 mile long country’s dedication to limited government interference and its use of cryptocurrency as its national currency, Liberland has also become a case study in nation branding.

Quartz reporter Anne Quinto noted, “Even if the legal premise of Liberland is shaky, it is looking more and more like a legitimate state, thanks to its well-developed nation-branding. In fact, the prospective nation is now essentially a design rendering, a mockup of what a brand new nation looks like, on the page and the screen, in 2015.”

Though it has yet to be recognized as legitimate by most nations, Liberland already boasts a website (where more than 300,000 people have already applied for citizenship), a flag, a coat of arms, a territorial map, the aforementioned currency and even a national anthem.

Liberland is an obvious reminder to all places on the importance of branding oneself effectively. In today’s global economy, the competition to attract people, resources and businesses is fiercer than ever. A place must not only differentiate itself, but it must also convey why it is the best option for businesses, talent and more.  With that in mind, here are five tips on place-branding:

  1. Explore Existing Perceptions: The first step in building a brand for your place is to figure out what perceptions already exist about your location. While many people already have associations about major places— for instance, Paris is “romantic” – it can be more difficult for people to identify major characteristics for smaller or lesser-known places to. Talk to the residents and local businesses to find out their existing perceptions. These pre-existing ideas will show you where to begin—either by building on what already exists or by illuminating the areas that need to be improved.
  1. Be Honest: The brand, though it should aim to improve existing perceptions, should remain authentic.  As Simon Anholt has advised, “Build a reputation that is fair, true, powerful, attractive, genuinely useful to [a location’s] economic, political and social aims, and honestly reflects the spirit, the genius and the will of the people.”  Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Marketing New York City, for example, as the “quietest city in the world” would not be in line with the reality. Instead, focus on how New York is a cultural hub.
  1. Appeal to All Audiences: A brand should present your place as somewhere people want to live, work and visit. This means taking a multi-faceted approach to appeal to all audiences including businesses, individuals, families and tourists. What does your location have to offer each group? How can each group’s wants be captured in one message?
  1. Build Partnerships: Work with both the private and public sectors to present a unified brand. All key stakeholders in the community should be aware of the brand and be encouraged to integrate it into their own materials as much as possible. Additionally, the residents of a place are the best marketers—if they believe strongly in the brand presented, they will easily transition to acting as brand ambassadors.
  1. Be Consistent: True for any brand, but particularly for a place, it is key to be consistent in your messaging. Consistency reinforces a place’s identity and differentiates it from others. Be sure to establish a style guide for others to share and utilize.

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