• Transform magazine
  • February 04, 2023


Place branding around the world at City Nation Place summit


In our autumn roundup, we examine events, interviews and news that took place in the last quarter of 2018. On 8-9 November, the City Nation Place summit drew place brand experts from around the world to London for a two day event on all things place branding

Place branding occupies a unique territory within the branding industry. It is separate, somewhat insular, and thrives off healthy competition, creativity and best practice PR and marketing strategies. Everything place branding was celebrated at the annual City Nation Place summit and awards in London last month. Delegates attended from as far as Colombia, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Iceland and Ireland to learn from each other and the year’s award winners.

The sessions alternatively focused on case studies in place branding excellence and on key topics and challenges being faced by those working in place branding. One of the sessions looked at the resilience of cities and places. The Urban Resilience Network unites places across regions with similar challenges from urban regeneration to environmental crisis with the goal of building strong places. A speaker from London & Partners shared the challenges London and the UK are facing as a result of Brexit. The company, responsible for the reputation of the UK capital, ensured it was telling the story of London, while avoiding some of the challenges that can lead to overtourism.

Following that, a discussion commenced on the issues related to the rise of fake news and social media falsity. A representative from Sweden discussed the country’s response to US President Donald Trump’s bizarre citing of a terror attack in Sweden. “If someone says that something has happened, its much bigger than something that has actually happened,” she said, adding that it’s the responsibility of government to educate people on media literacy and social literacy.

There was then a case study into natural disasters and the impact they have on place brands. Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, the winner of the 2018 ‘Best communications strategy’ award, gave a knockout talk on the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico’s place brand. He talked through the PR strategy post-crisis and explored how the island focused on the good, rather than the devastation, after the hurricane. The crowning moment for the push was on the day of the one year anniversary of the storm. Discover Puerto Rico seeded an image campaign, that could be used alongside one of the most powerful images from the storm, to lend a positive tone to the news coverage, thereby rebuilding Puerto Rico’s reputation. “You can combat sensationalism with real, authentic truth,” Dean said.

The next case study looked at collaborative approaches to place branding and focused on Wesgro, the place brand authority for the Western Cape in South Africa. It worked with all the region’s major authorities, private companies and tourism companies to improve air access to the region, thereby benefitting all the partners. Without using the Wesgro logo, the campaign was able to be adopted by any and all organisations that wanted to support it, thereby leading to further awareness.

One of the breakout sessions focused on communicating with Millennials. Peter Frosch, SVP & chief of staff at Greater MSP and Andy Levin, president and chief creative officer of Development Counsellors Intl spoke about building the reputation of the Minneapolis-St Paul region for young people. The multifaceted approach dramatically altered the city’s perception, its demographics and its national profile. Operating almost like a university would in terms of recruiting students, Greater MSP worked to attract technology professionals, particularly Millennials, to live and work for the many businesses in the Twin Cities. The result was an example of best practice in place brand development.

The summit concluded with the City Nation Place Awards, which showcased excellence in place branding around the world. The winners are as follows.

Best Citizen Engagement

Winner Checkout 247, entered by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland

Highly Commended India City Walks, entered by City Explorers Private Ltd

Best Communications Strategy

Winner From “Come Back” to Comeback, entered by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company & Ketchum A

Highly Commended Dive Into the Hague, entered by the Hague Marketing Bureau

Best Use of Design

Winner Enterprise Estonia

Highly Commended Irkutsk City Brand, entered by Institute for Identity 

Best Use of Social Media

Winner The Codenhagen Challenge, entered by Copenhagen Capacity

Highly Commended Inspired by Iceland, entered by Promote Iceland 

Place Brand of the Year

Winner Eindhoven, entered by Eindhoven 365

Highly Commended Restart in Idanha, entered by Bloom Consulting