Q&A Session on The Hierarchy of Destination Brands by Alan 'Brand' Williamson, Destination Brand Developer, and Richard Tibbott, Chairman - Locum Destination Consulting
Q: Alan asked what image delegates had of the Caribbean?
A: Jamaica - Tropical Islands - Beaches - Sailing - Carnival - Music - Sunshine - Hurricanes
Most of the Caribbean countries lack differentiation and tend to get lumped together within the 'white sands-palm trees-turquoise waters' of the Caribbean image. These destinations need to find their own unique brand identities to drive their economic futures.
British Virgins - Alan then talked about the British Virgin Islands whose first problem was its name - it was very similar to its next door neighbour, the US Virgin Islands. Yet within the sailing fraternity, the country is positioned as The Yachting Capital of the Caribbean - a position which could be exploited globally by targetting mega-rich yachties (and those who aspire to that lifestyle). However, the country brand focus does not prevent sub-brands for the various islands and resorts within the group from developing - Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Road Town etc - to deal with secondary strengths such as watersports, diving, even offshore financial services.
Initialitis - The other point Alan made was the problem of initials. Some countries with fairly long brand names try to establish themselves with initials because they think they can adopt the same naming strategy used by economically larger countries such as America (USA and US) and Britain (GB and UK). However, these big names are under the constant attention of the world's media who over the years have driven their names along with their initials into the minds of a global audience. Media does not constantly mention smaller countries such as the British Virgin Islands. So, outside the Caribbean, BVI is rarely associated with the British Virgin Islands. Nor is TCI associated with the Turks & Caicos Islands. Short of changing its name - a political hot potato - the British Virgin Islands should rather look for a short nickname, just as Australia is often shortened to Oz.
Q: Alan then asked delegates what Brand America represented for them?
A: Marlboro Country (Cowboys) - Commercialism - Stars & Stripes - Liberty - Freedom - American Dream.
The essence of Brand America - Land of the Free, Home of the American Dream - is the big brand idea that drives the American economy, not just tourism but also inward investment and exporting. Brand America, in exporting freedom and democracy to Iraq using military might, may have gone a bit too far.
Bringing the discussion to the state level, Alan suggested that most people think of New England as one of the American States, when it actually is a loose confederation of six different states.
Q: Alan then asked what image they had of New England?
A: Leaves in the fall - Freedom tree - European America - Heritage
In fact, the New England brand image is so powerful that its brand identity has transcended to life-style products such as paints, wallpapers and soft furnishings.
Compass Names - Alan then recommended avoiding compass names such as Northeast England, South of France, and Western Australia. New England could have been branded Northeast America but it would never have had as powerful an impact that a proper brand name would have.
Massachusetts - Alan then talked about the idea of re-branding Massachusetts, one of the six states within New England, as the world's intellectual (knowledge) capital. Indeed the first and third ranked universities in the world are located in the state - Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This would give Massachusetts a bi-focus - locally as the Bay State and globally as the World's Knowledge Capital. This is what Brussels did - locally as the Capital of Belgium, but globally as the Capital of Europe against strong competition from France's Strasbourg.
Q: Alan asked the audience how they would generate tourism in the World's Knowledge Capital?
A: Intellectual capital conferences - Heritage tours - Develop VFR (visits from friends and relatives of students) - Alumni re-unions
Q: Alan then asked how Oxford (No.5) and Cambridge (No.6) could be turned into brand leaders within the university league table?
A: Delegates automatically answered 'Europe' or 'by taking away America'. (Currently, seven of the top ten world-ranked educational establishments are American universities). Re-defining one's league is a powerful brand strategy because the top two brand leaders tend to attract the best students, the best tutors and the best donors.
Stanford University - Alan then discussed how California's Stanford (No.7) re-positioned itself into becoming a brand leader. Stanford looked at its curriculum and found that IT was its primary strength, so in conjunction with high-tech companies and venture capitalists, it opened an industrial park; then with the help of a journalist, a virtual or cluster destination brand was created called Silicon Valley. Not only does this brand generate IT inward investment, jobs and exports (there are Silicon Valley clones located around the world) but also business and leisure tourism.