In his article “Brand Europe: Moves Towards a Pan-European Identity”, Rudiger Theilmann discusses the role and expansion of “branding” beyond it’s intended consumer goods realm. One such new realm would be applying it to countries and destinations. Theilmann first poses a question asking “whether the application of branding strategies to places is well-grounded or merely a vague trend based on false logic.”
The reading aims to address three points: whether places can be branded the same way that tangible consumer products, defining the boundaries and features of place branding and whether the European countries can be branded with those features.
The article stresses that a distinction exists between destination branding and place branding. Destination branding focuses on attracting visitors and tourists. Place branding aims to “promote economic, commercial and political interests at home and abroad.”
Marketing is experiencing a shift from communicating to the consumer to communication with the consumer. This shift is a move towards more audience interaction with the product. In the place-brand situation, this is much more difficult since the place-brand has much less control over the experiences.
There are three main sources of audience experience: mass media, direct experience and brand communication strategies. Mass media is the creation of reality based on news and journalists. Direct experience involves perceptions which audiences themselves create with the object. And finally, brand communications is the most manageable and controllable by the place-brand. All three of these elements work together to create the audience experience.
Since direct audiences experiences is such a crucial role in place branding, there is a focus on trying to offer a “reality experience” to an audience. The diversity of audience-experience is also segmented by purpose of visit (ie. to visit family, for business) and the sources of their experience. The brand needs to clarify the message for each of these segments.
For the audience to seek the experience, the audience must have some sort of knowledge about the place. If the case is that the audience has no knowledge, a promotional campaign would be most useful. An example would be the 2006 film Borat, which was first created to bring Kazakhstan into the spotlight.
Countries use the concept of a “brand” to change or modify the established image or reputation their country might have. The author gives the example of the Eastern European countries that used to belong to the Soviet Bloc. Interestingly, the rebranding efforts of most of these countries are so similar that they defeat the purpose of creating individuality and uniqueness for each “brand”. At the same time, the similarity of their brands allows for the creation of transitional brands.
The challenge is for place-brands to focus on offering both “uniqueness within homogeneity.” One example would be the German campaign Deutschland- Land der Ideen (Germany- Land of Ideas).