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Marketing Breakdown: Branding vs. Tagline vs. Key Messages

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Here at DCI, we often run into questions about the difference between key terms and concepts in community branding. So, what’s the difference between a region’s brand, its tagline and its key messages? Let’s break down these three core concepts to better understand what they are and why they’re important in place marketing.


Branding is both an overarching image and an underlying force that should determine the direction of any marketing or communications effort. In its simplest sense, it is “who you are” as a region or organization and what sets you apart from your competitors.

You don’t control the position your brand occupies—your “customers” do. That’s why it’s important to first determine how your target audience (CEOs, site selectors, community members, etc.) perceives your region in order to help determine your brand strengths and areas for improvement.

This research should help to determine your “brand promise” or “value proposition”—an authentic statement of what sets your region apart and what your region uniquely brings to the table for your target audience. This should then inform your tagline, logo and other branding efforts and, more broadly, all subsequent marketing activities.


Your tagline, often incorporated into a logo, is the one-liner used to clearly identify your region at its core. What is the single most significant, unique or recognizable element of your brand? One tip: be original! While the majority of regions would like to think they’re known for “Low Taxes, Strong Workforce,” or other generic business advantages, what makes a region unique is its biggest asset in branding.

Key Messages

Your key messages are how your brand is communicated to the outside world and an important tool in keeping your organization and its stakeholders unified in their communications.

These should consist of the most distinctive and important claims that you can make about your region and take into account your value proposition and key brand elements, making sure that the messages work to support the structure you’ve put in place.

With these key messages as a guide, everything from your social media presence to media interviews by key spokespeople should work to reinforce a singular brand through consistent and clear communication.

Want to learn more about how to develop and communicate your region’s brand? Visit our Development Counsellors International Services for case studies on community branding, perception studies, marketing blueprints and more.

Written By

Patience Fairbrother

As Vice President, Talent Attraction, Patience oversees DCI’s Talent Attraction practice area, which helps cities, states, regions and countries to attract the workforce of the future through custom research and targeted marketing campaigns. Patience also serves as co-chair of DCI’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) initiative.

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