Where Regional Branding Goes Wrong
Where do regions go wrong when marketing their brand? By focusing on a generic, one-size fits all brand rather than viewing their region as a portfolio of individual ones.
Most regions look to create an umbrella brand, but this lends itself to dilution of the region’s unique characteristics. By putting all of the region’s assets together under one brand, regions promote sameness rather than diversity. For instance the “Detroit Region” may invoke negative images while ignoring the R&D strength of Ann Arbor, the hip sophistication of Royal Oak or the water recreation mecca of Mount Clemens.
Imagine Crest toothpaste, Dawn dish soap or Charmin bath tissue all being sold under the generic Procter and Gamble (P&G) label. Each of P&G’s brands serve customers in different ways—but all with a focus on making peoples’ lives a little easier. So should regions focus on positioning their individual places with specific markets or industries in a way that suits their target’s business goals.
Like these consumer brands, places have unique characteristics and attributes that deserve to be highlighted because of the varying needs and interests of their target audiences. Regions are not homogenous and should not be pasteurized through bland, generic branding.
Certainly, there is a need for an overarching brand identity within regions. But, investment promotion agencies need to focus more sharply on the attributes of their individual communities. General Motors is comprised of several divisions (Buick, Cadillac and Chevy), GMC) that each have individual models (Malibu, Cruze or Volt). Each model has its own brand as does each division and combined, they make up the entity known as GM.
Likewise, regional economies are nothing more than the sum of their local ones. The communities contained within a region represent a series of products that form the regional product line. Each deserves its own marketing strategy.
Regional groups can strengthen their area and generate more investment opportunities by building a branding campaign that views each community as an individual brand and has a strategy for each.