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MOUNTAINS DON’T SMILE BACK George Whitfield Senior Associate, Tourism Enterprise and Management (TEAM) 15 th September 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "MOUNTAINS DON’T SMILE BACK George Whitfield Senior Associate, Tourism Enterprise and Management (TEAM) 15 th September 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 MOUNTAINS DON’T SMILE BACK George Whitfield Senior Associate, Tourism Enterprise and Management (TEAM) 15 th September 2005

2 George Whitfield requests that:  where information from this presentation is used by others, it should be fully acknowledged.  the presentation should not be reproduced for distribution to third parties except with his written agreement. Mr. Whitfield would be pleased to discuss any aspect of this presentation with delegates to the Second National Congress on Business Travel, Estoril, September He may be contacted:  by -  by phone or fax at Regarding this presentation

3 INTRODUCTION TO TEAM Consultancy in strategy, business planning and operations for tourism destination organisations – strong focus on e-business in all our work Clients include the World Tourism Organisation, European Travel Commission, Western Cape TB, Seychelles TMA, Enterprise Estonia, VisitBritain, Irish, Scottish and Wales TBs, and Destination Management/Marketing Organisations (DMOs) throughout the UK Co-authored the WTO Business Council publication, “Marketing Tourism Destinations Online”, 1999, + successor publication “E- Business for Tourism, published in October 2001 Managers of the European Travel Commission’s Web site, “New Media Review”, which monitors trends in the use of new media by consumers in all major tourism markets Publishers of ‘DMO World’, a newsletter for tourism destination organisations around the world

4 WHAT IS DESTINATION BRANDING & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Most of this presentation will address what destination branding involves But it must also address the question ”Why is it important?” Quite simply, branding allows destinations and places to compete effectively in the global tourism marketplace by being relevant, differentiated and compelling A strong brand can also mean the difference between a slow or a fast recovery from natural or man-made disasters – an important consideration in today’s world

5 IMPORTANCE OF BRANDING Brands dictate behaviour A brand serves as a standard against which many issues, especially behaviour, can be assessed Brands force us to put the customer – in our case, the visitor – first Brands simplify choice for consumers. In today’s time-stared world, making things easier for people provides a competitive advantage

6 BRAND VS. REPUTATION Almost all places have a reputation Reputations can be positive or negative and can change on a whim Brands are long term, managed perceptions in the minds of core visitor profiles Reputations are passive whereas brands set out with a purpose and a plan Importantly, brands form ongoing relationships with their customers by adopting a pro-active role in their lives

7 PLACE VERSUS EXPERIENCE What do we mean by Mountains Don’t Smile Back? We mean that the visitor’s enjoyment of a place they visit is governed by much more than just the physical attributes and attractions of that place Great scenery, renowned culture, iconic monuments and the dramas of history are important but cannot, by themselves, present the real experience of a place This experience is primarily influenced by how a visitor is treated and made to feel

8 PEOPLE, NOT MOUNTAINS, DEFINE BRANDS Despite what fanatical climbers say, you can’t have a relationship with a mountain The sea won’t change colour to please you Brand experiences and relationships are created by people Mountains don’t smile back, people do It is people that make great destination brands Meeting and convention planners would do well to measure the potential experience a place can deliver for delegates as well as the size of the convention hall

9 DEFINING A “BRAND”? A brand is, quite simply, a PROMISE It is not a name, a slogan, a strapline or a logo These are important expressions of the brand’s identity – words and symbols of recognition But they are not the brand A brand is a promise that is relevant, differentiated and compelling – a promise that is delivered consistently over time

10 BRAND BASICS Some people argue that branding countries and destinations is entirely different from branding products or services This is not the case All brands start from the same point – if they are to be successful They do not start with what you have to offer, they start with what the customer wants and then tailor what you have to meet those needs

11 THE ROLE OF A BRAND There are many destinations – as well as companies and products - that still believe branding’s role is to act as some kind of attractive expression for the primary features and attributes of the place, product or service This is not the brand’s role. This is a superficial ‘paint job’ we call politely: cosmetic branding

12 THE BRAND AS CORNERSTONE Real brands are based on a thoroughly researched strategy that finds out what the customer wants - and provides it The strategy culminates in a statement of intent we call the Brand Promise How well you have identified the customer need and can keep your promise to fulfil it determines the success of your brand

13 DIMENSIONS OF THE BRAND PROMISE The promise is created in response to what your chosen visitor audience says it wants An intimate understanding of the target audience is therefore essential Your brand promise must serve to differentiate your offering from anything else available with sustainable advantage Being a “me-too” brand in today’s competitive world just does not work

14 DEVELOPING THE BRAND STRATEGY A logical and disciplined progression Developing a brand strategy requires immense focus No one ever designed a successful brand that set out to be all things to all people Focus on as narrow a definition of a target audience segment as possible Aim to make a big splash with this narrow audience and the ripple effect will bring in vast numbers you never targeted (Hedonism)

15 DISCOVER THE NEED People are motivated by emotion far more than reason, especially in leisure travel It is vital to understand the emotional fulfilments the audience seeks from their experience of your destination, not just the rational component Current research techniques are well equipped to find out what the visitor wants, but not very good at finding out why You can leap-frog your competitors if you understand the emotional triggers that determine the preferences of your visitors

16 COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE THROUGH DIFFERENTIATION Your castle, your forest, your coastline or your “unique” history are not likely to set you apart This is as true of the attributes of different Caribbean islands as it is of regions and sub- regions across the British Isles There is a vast sameness across much of what places and destinations offer The job of branding is to break through this in a meaningful and compelling way that responds to a visitor’s needs

17 DEFINE THE EXPERIENCE The way to effectively differentiate and achieve competitive advantage is through the experience the visitor is offered The only way of knowing what this experience should be is by listening to the customer Minutely analyse each facet of their experience with visitors and ask how it could be made better (Saturn, Couples)

18 EXISTING PERCEPTIONS Few destinations today start from zero in developing their brand It is important to recognise what can influence current perceptions - both positively and negatively - and how these sources of perception can often be used to advantage It is also helpful to analyse where synergies exist between the different sources

19 SOURCES FOR BRAND PERCEPTIONS These can be summarised under seven headings: 1.Tourism 2.Exports 3.Foreign and Domestic Policy 4.Inward Investment 5.Culture, Heritage and Sport 6.Citizenry 7.Threats And Disasters

20 TOURISM Since it is the job of tourism enterprises to get the place noticed, this category is often highly visible, if only through the combined spending of associated segments like airlines, hotels, tour operators and the tourist board itself Sadly, individual agendas often result in poor synergy of messages, fragmentation and exaggerated over-promising

21 EXPORTS Frequently a major source of emotional associations and imagery for places, regions and countries Can legitimately lead destination brand strategy if appropriate… “Swiss precision”, “German engineering”, Italian fashion”, “French cuisine” A powerful national or regional image is one of the most valuable gifts a place can give to its exporters – provided that the products live up to the place’s reputation and vice versa

22 FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC POLICY Destinations are often judged first by how they are seen to conduct their affairs, both internally and on the international stage. It is possible for a restrictive or despotic regime to remain a popular tourism destination (Cuba) But for a place like Canada with its inclusive domestic agenda and role as peacekeeper abroad, tourism has fertile ground in which to flourish

23 INWARD INVESTMENT A strong brand perception will give places a better chance of getting on the shortlist for inward investment But this is over-simplified More often, the agendas of modern industrial efficiency thought to attract business investment appear at odds with the ‘softer’ tourism image for holidaying visitors This presentation will address the misunderstanding associated with this apparent conflict

24 CULTURE, HERITAGE AND SPORT These aspects of how messages are sent out can endow a place with dignity, richness, trust and respect abroad while they contribute to the quality of life at home through pride and a sense of national or regional identity They are especially important where tourism is viewed primarily as an economic driver

25 CITIZENRY Its citizens are the most important ambassadors a destination can have They are an even more constant and believable channel of communication than politicians and high profile public figures The people who live in a place can communicate the complexities and contradictions of its image far more effectively than any other channel Passionate citizens make positive change happen

26 THREATS AND DISASTERS Threats and disasters are an ever present reality for every tourism destination The extent to which threats, whether from man or nature, serve to deter tourism is almost invariably a function of how travellers perceive such threats are being handled As with foreign and domestic policy, the media watches, interprets and reports A lot of places fail to realise that their brand values, i.e. the rules that govern the behaviour of the brand, are of paramount importance in such scenarios

27 DELIVERING THE BRAND Delivery is the most important element of the brand promise The delivery determines whether you have kept your promise, exceeded the visitor’s expectations and created a bond of trust – the basis for a relationship Delivery depends on people Many brands fail here because they don’t involve the brand delivery community with the brand promise

28 BRAND BEHAVIOUR Brands are built by the behaviour of those who come into any kind of contact with the customer, through many channels No brand can just say what it promises. It will not be believed. It must earn the trust of its audience by delivering on its promise consistently, across all visitor touch points, all media and all communication It is called delivering the brand values or to “behave as you say you are”

29 MANAGING BRAND BEHAVIOUR Sometimes cited as insurmountable obstacle for destinations Lack of central authority that can ensure compliance Leadership by example and effective communication throughout the brand community can overcome much of this Use the brand expression as a call to action “I ♥ New York” created pride in their city by its citizens and they delivered what their brand promised

30 CONFLICTING AGENDAS Resolving apparent conflict between a “soft and cuddly” tourism image and the hard- nosed, industrially proficient imagery preferred by inward investment and even business tourism interests A place’s industrial infrastructure or convention facilities can never form the basis for any brand strategy whose first objective is to attract holiday visitors Infrastructure and facilities are the price of entry for non-tourism agendas – they get you on the list

31 POWERFUL BRAND VALUES DIFFERENTIATE Facilities need the backdrop of a powerful place brand to beat the competition A brand succeeds by exceeding the expectations of its audience; in other words, by how it behaves in delivering the brand promise The non-tourism agendas must know what their specialised markets’ expectations are They must behave in ways that exceed these expectations

32 BESTCITIES.net One of the best practice examples Dr. Carter quoted last year was “BestCities.net” This global alliance of convention bureaus measures its performance against 32 service standards which seek to ensure: reliability, assurance, innovation, empathy and responsiveness These could be core values for any tourism destination’s brand promise There need be no conflicting agendas when you understand the customers and their needs

33 OTHER CHALLENGES FOR PLACE BRANDS Lack of central control to ensure consistent “brand behaviour” It isn’t control that is needed but leadership, involvement and communication Even major corporations can’t “control” brand behaviour, but they can instil it as part of corporate culture, willingly adopted and enthusiastically practised

34 LEADERSHIP Brands involve change that generally only the top person can authorise Brands involve behaviour and this must be modelled from the top down Some of the greatest brands echo the values of their leaders: Virgin, The Body Shop Presidents and Prime Ministers must be the brand champions for national brands

35 INVOLVEMENT People everywhere support ideas far more readily if they feel they have had a hand in creating them Involving the brand community responsible for delivery is vital Form alliances for input, not committees for approval

36 COMMUNICATION It is impossible to behave in line with a set of brand values if you don’t know what they are, or to keep a brand promise if you don’t know what it is In brand development projects, scarce communication funds would often be better spent at the outset to educate the community than to promote to the visitor

37 CHALLENGES – ASSET POVERTY Some destinations believe they cannot compete because they don’t have the right physical assets, attractions and scenic features Countries rarely believe this but smaller destinations, cities and regions can feel they have little to offer on the global stage of competition Often, the real problem lies in concerns over established negative perceptions built through prior associations

38 CHALLENGING ASSET POVERTY Since the prime asset of any place or destination is people, there are few that can truly claim asset poverty Even apparently ruinous infrastructure and supply line failures such as occurred in the early days of tourism’s resurgence in Cuba proved no barrier to rapid tourism growth Cubans welcomed visitors with infectious curiosity, enthusiasm and genuine delight. People forgot that their toilet didn’t work and that there were no eggs for breakfast

39 INTRODUCING ASSET ADVANTAGE Where there is genuinely a poor inventory of natural or built physical assets, other strategies can still enable the development of superior brands “Introduced” assets are an obvious route. Examples are numerous from urban regeneration projects to trans Atlantic yacht races, annual festivals to sporting spectaculars

40 BRAND BENEFITS There are enormous benefits for multiple constituents when a place or destination has a strong brand. Here are just a few:  Marketplace Advantage. First and foremost is the obvious ability of a well conceived brand to ensure competitive superiority  Tourist confidence. Visitors know what to expect. They anticipate the positive rather than fearing the worst

41 MORE BENEFITS  Home Pride. The local people who have been involved in the creation of a brand promise, believe in it and want to make it work exhibit pride – pride of ownership, pride in where they live, pride that others want to visit them, pride in the part they play in delivering the brand promise  A Positive Outlook. Even after 9/11, New Yorkers still love New York. Their brand has embedded itself deep into the New Yorker personality. There was a spirit of cooperation and shared identity long before the terrorist atrocities

42 THE BRAND AS BLUEPRINT The brand must be the core driver in any tourism strategy Using the brand strategy as the driver avoids many pitfalls of internal dissension and disparate agendas It puts the emphasis on the market place and satisfying what the customer wants - which is a powerful argument

43 A BLUEPRINT DEFINES THE STRUCTURES Use the brand strategy, promise and values as a yardstick against which all other decisions are measured This will help determine all future decisions from the style and nature of infrastructure development to planning approvals for accommodation and leisure facilities The destination brand is at the core of what a place does, how it is perceived and how it achieves visitor devotion and constituents’ enthusiasm

44 OTHER ELEMENTS OF A STRONG BRAND Too brief an overview to cover all aspects of place and destination branding There are many other advantages and requirements Just a few are listed in the following slides

45 MANAGING THE VISITOR RELATIONSHIP Called CRM in other contexts Collects, analyses, mines and uses data on visitor profiles, behaviour, attitudes and value Uses the measure of lifetime value of the customer in place of immediate sales volume or visitor numbers Recognises that the visit is only the first step in a long term relationship

46 BRAND ARCHITECTURES Attack brands, umbrella brands, slip-stream brands, challenger brands are just so much jargon in the marketing lexicon If a place can identify a narrow target segment whose needs, both emotional and rational, can be met and exceeded by a relevant, differentiated, compelling and deliverable promise then the place can define a brand The real job of brand architecture is to align potentially disparate audience segments and the promises being made to them to avoid marketplace confusion and fragmentation

47 BRAND IDENTITY EXPRESSSION This is often all that marketers think branding is about The brand expression comes at the end of agreement to the brand strategy It is exceptionally important that it be executed well and in line with the brand promise If a slogan or strapline is used it should endeavour to talk about the visitor experience, not the place Ensure that it is unique to your destination

48 THE BRAND AS CONTEXT An over-arching brand for a place or region creates a context for future growth A brand as blueprint is not an unbreakable rule, it is a set of values Keeping in touch with the satisfied (hopefully devoted) visitor base enables the brand to evolve accurately in line with visitors’ desires In the corporate world, brands are now viewed as prime assets. They appear on the balance sheet and enhance the value of their corporate owners

49 THE BRAND AS ASSET In the case of destinations, the value of the brand is both its ability to motivate visitors and its inspiration for local pride and achievement Properly communicated and understood, a brand can be the fulcrum for community action, self-esteem and entrepreneurial motivation It has been said that a powerful brand identity is the most valuable gift a country or place can give to its citizens, industries and businesses

50 THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION George Whitfield, Senior Associate, TEAM For further information: th September 2005


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