The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
We welcome and answer marketing questions of all types here on BSI. Today's question comes from Lisa, an economic development executive near Toronto, Canada. She asks:
“I work in economic development for a small municipality that is challenged with negative brand perceptions from an association with radioactive waste. As I prepare a Request For Proposal (RFP), can you tell me who is the best partner to help us change these brand perceptions and help better the future of our city?”
Thanks for your question Lisa. First let me share, the best partner in place branding, city branding or community branding projects as they are known, is actually two partners. A brand consultant or brand consultancy that focuses on strategy, and an advertising agency or creative partner that focuses on implementing the brand strategy creatively. Each possesses a different skillset and specializes in one of the two critical areas of expertise you will need. Look at each in this way:
Advertising Agencies traditionally focus on the execution of creative strategies. That is, they will determine the best marketing vehicle to reach your target audience and will use compelling creative to make a connection and entice a reaction. The best ones are strategic in nature and see tactics as a second step.
A Brand Consultancy traditionally lives by this philosophy: Instead of trying to communicate a brands' features and benefits, they recommend studying the minds of the target audience first and then try to "position" the brand in the mind, taking advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of the brand and competing brands. This process ensures that your brand has selected the most powerful benefits to own and that it has developed the proof points and reasons to believe for those benefits. Brand consultancies also aid companies (in this case municipalities) in any strategy-related brand decisions from brand equity measurement to brand extension.
Advertising Agencies and Brand Consultancies both strive to create brand insistence – creating a 'category of one' brand with no substitutes. Each work together for the good of the client.
In your case Lisa, you need specialists. Pairing a seasoned agency and consultancy will offer you the best team to help your city shed these perceptions and replace them with new, positive ones. To find partners, I suggest issuing two RFP’s segregating your search for brand strategy partners from creative strategy partners. I think you’ll find this approach will produce the best results.
I have a few other recommendations. For help in writing your place branding RFP I suggest a visit to here. For more insights on place branding go here (and scroll down) and see here for a closer look at changing brand perceptions.
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