Branding Rally: Place Branding

Derrick DayeMarch 21, 20073504 min

It amazes me the level of talent that flows over and through Branding Strategy Insider. So it just makes sense to try and harness the current and rally this exceptional group.

This is the first Branding Rally in which we will analyze real-world branding issues and share ideas for the greater good. My hope is that we’ll pool our experiences and all will be better for it.

The focus of this rally is Place Branding. Specifically Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Ed Roach is the resident branding expert and is in the early stages of discovering who Windsor’s target audiences are and what can be owned in their minds.

Ed and I are hoping to hear from you as well as Eli Portnoy, Marcia Hoeck, and Alan Williamson.

I think a good place to start is to share our process. The Blake Project has experience in this area with Tampa, Florida and are in the place branding process with a few other cities.

Typically we begin with a brand audit which ideally includes a full research component. We talk to all of the most important target audiences. Depending upon the scope of the project, this usually includes current and potential residents, current and potential businesses, tourists, conference/event planners, etc.

With this insight we move to the brand positioning phase where we lead key stakeholders through a unique and highly facilitated discovery process designed to build consensus around what the brand stands for and why target audiences would choose it over competing brands.

This phase includes a pre-workshop questionnaire to gain input from a broader group of stakeholders and influencers. This is important to gather additional insights and to rally those that will not be invited into the workshop which is best conducted with a group of 6 to 12 participants.

On the day of the workshop we discover the brand’s most important target audiences, the brand’s essence, competitive frame of reference, brand promise and brand personality. Key to the exercise is identifying the most unique and compelling benefits (functional, emotional, experiential and self-expressive) that the municipality can own and deliver to its target audiences.

We believe that the primary brand benefit chosen should deliver against these objectives:

-The benefit is extremely important to the target audience(s).
-The municipality has unique, sustainable competencies (and strategic intent) in delivering against the benefit.
-Competitors are not delivering against the benefit (nor would it be easy for them to do so in the future)
-Any benefit chosen is unique, compelling, motivating, understandable and believable.
Ideally, the brand tries to ‘own’ only one or two key benefits, as that is all decision makers in the target audience will remember.

As an integral part in this process it is imperative that we ensure that the brand has selected the most powerful benefits to own and that it has developed the proof points and reasons to believe for those benefits.

The strongest place brands are positioned to be relevant, unique and compelling and are built by community leaders, stakeholders, and organizations that promote the competitive advantage by speaking with a unified voice. Economic Development Organizations, Convention and Visitor Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, and Government bodies are all in synch with each other when communicating the brand promise.

The community delivers on the promise because it’s who they really are.

The output of the Brand Positioning Workshop serves among other things as a guide to brand communications. It is condensed in a one-page brand positioning statement (which is also known as a USP, Unique Selling Proposition) that reveals brand essence, brand promise and brand personality.

The Results of the Workshop:

-Focus leadership team
-Inform and rally community stakeholders
-Guide branding, and external communication efforts
-Underlie brand identity (including tag line)

Perhaps the most visible is the tagline.

The tagline should capture the essence of the brand’s promise in an economy of words. It should be magnetic to target audiences, communicate the brand position, be unique, easy to pronounce, easy to remember, and be defendable.

We commonly see two approaches to tagline development for municipalities in transition.

A. Credibility Approach: The tagline recognizes and communicates that the brand is in a process of growth. The tagline celebrates the transformation, builds momentum to see it through and is magnetic to target audiences.

B. Visionary Approach: The tagline communicates the emotional benefit of living in the city after its transformation, and is magnetic to target audiences.
In some cases articulating the brand positioning with a transitional tagline followed by a related, yet definitive tagline can work.

A critical step that some make: they skip strategy and head straight for tactics (logos and taglines). You must first discover your brand’s positioning.

What are your thoughts on Place Branding and the process? What challenges have you encountered? What advice can you give the Windsor community stakeholders?

The Blake Project Can Help: The Brand Positioning Workshop

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    March 21, 2007 at 8:00 am

    I’d like to welcome everyone to the first day of Brand Rally: Place Branding. Derrick and I hope that these events will open up new doors in blog communication. It is our intent to witness first hand the collective wisdom of brand professionals from around the world as we tackle our first challenge: Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

    If you are unfamiliar with Windsor and would like to hear what some are saying about it, check out my post back at Brand Corral. Also check out the Windsor link in the post above.

    You are welcome to just look over our shoulders, but we encourage you to join in the discussion. Healthy opinions help us all, and it will go a long way to making this first Brand Rally a success.

    Thank you for participating,


  • Eli Portnoy (The Brand Man Speaks!)

    March 21, 2007 at 11:47 am

    The Brand Rally is a great idea…the coming together of industry experts in this forum is a wonderful use of “social media”.

    My firm undertook the assignment to “re-brand” downtown Orlando shortly after the launch (and great success) of Downtown Disney and Universal Citywalk which both dramatically drained tourists and locals alike from Orlando’s core.

    The biggest challenge we faced was to manage stakeholder involvement. Our process is centered around a multi-day Brand Laboratory involving upwards of 40 plus people. Despite that good-sized number of participants, it was challenging to ensure that all relevant stakeholders’ voices would be heard.

    Other methods (interviews, questionnaires etc.) were used to include as broad a spectrum of opinions and views as possible, however, we found these secondary participatory tools did not fully satisfy some who wanted desperately to be involved in the actual interactive process.

    Additionally, different than branding or re-branding consumer products and services, community stakeholders have greatly varying points of view of what the outcome of the branding effort should be which requires additional work to create consensus. The good news is this extra effort helped these disparate voices bond more genuinely and effectively.

    Our work helped turn the tide and contributed to a resurgence in both commercial and residential activity in downtown Orlando.

    One additional point. Personally, I am NOT a fan of slogans and advise clients to either not use them or not rely on them if they insist on creating them. Why? Virtually every study I have read and my own experience as a focus group facilitator indicates that so few people can accurately tie a slogan back to the brand using it. If it must be used, the brand name should have an very integral part in the slogan and not be used as a toss away add-on that any entity (a city in this case) could use.

    Too many clients put undue emphasis on slogan development..including spending disproportionate amounts of money to promote it….and are generally disappointed with the results.

    Few campaigns produce tag-lines as successful as Las Vegas’ slogan.


    March 22, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Good point on slogans Eli. I think people gravitate to them because they are easy and fun to create and it makes them ‘feel’ creative and are contributing something. Sometimes I believe it masks the truth that some real work must be done with regards to their brand.

    With Windsor, I feel like most of us that once the key stakeholders are part of the branding team, including the Mayor, city officials, economic development, a union rep, a charity rep and others, then we must be absolutely be honest about who we are as a brand and work to embrace it or change it.

    I suggest discouraging slogans through out the process. The brand position will naturally be the parent of or at least inspiration of slogans. I find it interesting that you won’t recommend a slogan. If you had your way would you never use them? I agree that most people could never link most slogans back to their owners, but I don’t think most slogans were ever meant to be stand alone.

    Would you agree that if the slogan truly reflected the brand position, inspired it’s advocates and have deep pockets you could develop a slogan that does evoke the name of it’s parent? Case in point “Just do it!”. “I Love …”

    I’d like to know from the group, given all the negative perceptions of Windsor on my blog and others, how would you advise the stakeholders to start addressing this problem. Remember that in Windsor, the drinking age is 19, totally nude strip bars, massage parlours and casinos are all legal businesses and are not going anywhere. This is one negative area I would like to address first.

    I guess we should establish Windsor’s personality (in our opinions) and decide whether we like it or not. I like to establish this demographic profile so that stakeholders have an honest brand personality image to deal with rather than some individual ideal. In a recent case the profile discovered was very unflattering. But the branding team were inspired that the profile built had to change, and all the discoveries that came out later could be traced back to this profile, reinforcing its validity.


  • Eli Portnoy (The Brand Man Speaks!)

    March 22, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    You addressed my point about slogans. It is the tail wagging the dog in the vast majority of cases and too much energy and money is thrown at this generally weak marketing tool.

    I am not totally against the use of slogans but it is far more important to create the complete brand charter, be absolutely clear how the brand plans to be unique, differentiated and relevant BEFORE rushing to do the tag line.

    I find some executives only want to focus on the tag line because as you said, everyone wants to be a part of the creative process but this can be suicide…or at least time wasting. Let the pros do what they do well when you are ready.

    If a slogan surfaces and passes muster and is used properly as part of a complete communications package and not a stand-alone, then it’s a viable element.

    I find taking a strong stand against the use from the get go keeps my clients focused on the work at hand and desired result. I will soften on the slogan topic if all else is well orchestrated.

    This reminds me of my childhood when all I wanted was dessert (and lots of it!) and no dinner. However, my parents astutely directed me to learn to eat important (not always to my liking) foods to be healthy and grow strong…and “earn” dessert. I found eating healthy was enjoyable and dessert had less meaning and I didn’t need to eat lots of it.

    But once in a while I would then and do now eat dessert first then look around to see how obese the world is and stop eating dessert for months on end since the downside is far more potent than the short term upside of sweet gratification.



    March 22, 2007 at 9:08 pm


    I absolutely agree with you with regard to your point that the brand process must be complete BEFORE the slogan is even considered. Love your childhood analogy.


  • Derrick Daye

    March 23, 2007 at 1:44 am

    Ed & Eli,

    You’re right about taking the emphasis off taglines. They represent only one component of the outcome of this process.

    More often than not it is the unity of the group that holds the most value. When they reach consensus on what the brand stands for and other key issues that defines the brand positioning.

    An interesting part of this process is ensuring all voices are heard. Sometimes groups want to exclude certain key stakeholders or discount their voices. As a facilitator you cannot let this happen. As I said in the main post, the most successful place brands speak with a unified voice.

    How do the successful brands get to this point? They include voices of resistance and convert them. They overcome political differences for the greater good. They stay true to the agreements forged in the workshop. Their range of vision is beyond ego and personal gain.

    I must add this: They choose brand consultants to lead this discovery process, not ad agency personnel.



    March 25, 2007 at 11:34 am

    What is the difference between place branding and corporate branding? With place, I’m sure we’ll recognize that many of the stakeholders may have different agendas influencing them. Which group is more apt to adopt change? Both groups are similar in their possible misunderstanding of just what their brand is. What has been the groups experience in guiding these two parties towards a goal of strengthening or re-defining their brands?

  • Eli Portnoy (The Brand Man Speaks!)

    March 26, 2007 at 10:15 am

    In my experience, the difference between Place Branding and Corporate Branding is significant but straightforward.

    Corporate Branding may involve people with different ideas about their organization, its reason for being and its future. However, they are unified by corporate culture and values, history, and competitive framework.

    Place Branding brings together very divergent stakeholders who in many cases cannot initially agree on the physical boundaries of the community in question, what the current Place Brand stands for or its reason for being.

    It’s more of a melting pot collection of people and the branding process requires much more upfront work to get to common points of agreement about the “past to the present” before the future brand can be created and articulated.

  • Derrick Daye

    March 26, 2007 at 11:49 am

    From Alan via email:

    Hello Derrick

    Just emerged bleary-eyed from a London Olympic legacy brand project, so apologies for a rather belated response to your exciting Brand Rally on Place Branding for Windsor, Ontario.

    Here’s my take on the subject:
    Two key strengths for Windsor, Ontario to consider:

    1. Automotive blue collar skills. Witness the slow renaissance of post-Super Bowl Detroit: America’s Motor Capital not Murder Capital.

    2. Named after Windsor, England (Windsor Castle is the favourite residence of the Queen. It is also one of England’s most popular tourist destinations.)

    Consider copying Stratford, Ontario’s brand strategy – who in turn borrowed from its namesake: Stratford, England, birthplace of playright William Shakespeare. Stratford, Ontario hosts the Festival of Canada, the continent’s biggest literary festival.

    So welcome to new ‘Royal’ Windsor, Ontario:

    Home of the Festival of British Royalty featuring the automotive vehicles and transportation used by the royals throughout history.

    ‘Royal’ Windsor, Ontario is also home to the Queen Elizabeth II sunken garden and also features replicas of two British icons: the Spitfire and the Hurricane. The city’s nickname is ‘Rose City’ – the national flower of England.

    Derrick, the minority French-speaking residents might object to this idea, but if you can pull this off, I’ll be happy to support your brand development efforts as I live within an hour’s drive from Windsor Castle.

    Alan Williamson

  • Derrick Daye

    March 26, 2007 at 12:20 pm


    Thanks. Very insightful. Your thoughts Ed?

    Regarding the differences between place branding and corporate branding, Eli is right on. I would also add that while each group of stakeholders share the same level of commitment they are committed in different ways.

    The majority of Place Branding Stakeholders are often volunteers and frankly are free to revert back to their own ideas and ways after the workshop without reminders from corporate.

    This means the facilitation and the facilitator(s) must be very skilled at helping these groups discover and own their ideas. The seed must be created, planted and nurtured by this group – no one else.

    The best in our business have a knack for getting these groups to unite and produce the best results.


  • Ed Roach

    March 26, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Allens comments are very interesting. I’ve never heard much chatter locally on heritage. Windsor has torn down much of it’s past and rebuilt over it. It has a rich and colourful history, but there are no local references to it anymore. I was unaware that the rose was England’s national flower, we are the city of Roses but you’d be hard-pressed to find any except in Jackson Park. When I moved here, I mused, “Where are all the roses?” The only concern I have regarding Allan’s Royal angle is unlike Stratford, Windsor bears no resemblance to it’s name sake. We are very Americanized due to our proximity to Detroit.

    One area Windsor is aggressively persuing is automotive research and development. The 2 local brain trusts (University of Windsor & St. Clair College) are assisting in this effort. Automotive manufacturing was it’s main focus for many years, but now this focus is shifting to a more intellectual goal. A realistic goal here might be the world leader in automotive R & D. Manufacturing expertise is outstanding and our workforce is constantly praised for its superior skill sets. My contention is that Windsor is the hardest working city in Canada. This sentiment compliments our blue collar roots and intellectual future.

  • Eli Portnoy (The Brand Man Speaks!)

    March 26, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Loved Alan’s thinking…humor and all. Ed I understand the challenges are great. Here are some thoughts to uncover what’s already alive in Windsor before having to “create” new ideas/businesses/venues for the future.

    1) However small, what does Windsor do well? (being a quick escape from Detroit to a bit of O Canada might be one..some cultural diversity..another perhaps…) Every community (I discovered doing Place Branding work) does many things well, most forgotten or overlooked by the local populace. Sometimes there are hidden jewels that people take for granted. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “oh, that old place?” about some cool place outsiders would enjoy but locals think has no interest.

    2) City of Roses…maybe Windsor could become a sister city to Portland Oregon, the US City of Roses…or some other tie-in…Portland is HOT these days, (and I don’t mean in temperature).

    3) Even Sin City Las Vegas found away to spin its weakness into great strength.

    4) Sometimes the best contributors are those who visit the city for the first time and see things locals have become blind to or ignore.

    5) I ask people to list two or three of their favorite parts/places/activities in their community that they frequent and explain why.

    6) Finally, since shopping is still the number two or three activity people want to do on vacation, what retail or shopping experiences are unique to Windsor that are NOT in America? (however simple, off-beat or even bizzare).


  • alan williamson

    March 27, 2007 at 5:42 am

    Eli, Ed, Derrick

    ‘Canada’s Motor Capital’ is a fabulous big brand idea with a future focus: from low-skilled blue collars to high-skilled white coats.

    About a year ago I did a brand development project for the south-Indian city of Chennai (formerly known as Madras) and gained consensus to position it as ‘India’s Motor Capital’ or ‘India’s Detroit’ (Detroit still has a global reputation despite its ‘Murder Capital’ image at home).

    A ‘Festival of Speed’ is in the works in Chennai modelled on the super-successful Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

    I know there is already a Winter Festival of Speed in Edmonton but a Summer Festival of Speed hosted by Windsor might be a goer?

    Whichever way Windsor’s stakeholders decide to go, it is vital that the big brand idea is based on a narrow focus. But to satisfy all the stakeholders the sub-brands (eg. shopping, heritage, red light district etc) need to be developed in conjunction with the super brands – Ontario and Canada.


  • Ed Roach

    March 27, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    You must be a little psychic or have done your home work. Windsor has had the designation as Canada’s Automotive Capital for many years now. Your work with Chennai would be an interesting case study to look at someday. I love India’s Detroit. I’m sure Detroit’s city fathers would be proud knowing their brand in India is performance not mayhem.

    Excellent focus Alan.


  • Derrick Daye

    March 27, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    I’m really enjoying these perspectives.

    In this point of the conversation it would be great to know who the primary target audience is. Is it tourists, businesses, or residents? Or some combination.

    If it’s business, Canada’s Automotive Capital could be a strong option.

    As we know, the stakeholders hold the key.

    I’d be interested in learning the Mayor’s thoughts.


  • alan williamson

    March 28, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Ed, Derrick, Eli

    Derrick’s suggestion: Let’s try and point the conversation towards who the primary target audience might be: visitors, business or residents?

    Ideally, the big brand idea should touch all three elements of the geo-socio-economic landscape. I call it The Three Vees:

    Vee 1: Visitability for Visitors (Business & Leisure)
    Vee 2: Viability for Investors (Commercial & Residential)
    Vee 3: Visibility for Exporters (Invisibles & Visibles)

    So let’s put the ‘Automotive’ brand idea to the Three Vees test:

    Automotive-related conferences and business meetings will generate business visitors. The proposed ‘Summer Festival of Speed’ will generate both business and leisure visitors. This cultural event is vital not only for visitors but also for residents who need to build their self-identity while expressing it outwardly during the festivities.

    Commercial investors will be attracted by the future abundance of a skilled blue, white and no-collar labour force and a culture of automotive innovation and entrepreneurship. This in turn will attract residential investors attracted by the well-paid jobs and business opportunities.

    Local firms by co-branding their products with place – Windsor – will generate much visibility for their export markets. In the aviation industry, witness Boeing co-branding with Seattle (Boeing’s HQ is now in Chicago) and Airbus with Toulouse, France.
    ‘Powered by Windsor’ could well become a powerful export slogan for visibiles and invisibiles.


  • Marcia McMillen

    March 29, 2007 at 8:51 am

    I have a couple of follow-up comments on the previous entries. I agree with Ed and Eli about taglines. Many times people rush into this because it is part of the “fun” stuff . The research is the heavy lifting. If done correctly the research and strategy will point you to the perfect strategic and creative solution.

    The point I would like to make is the importance of understanding your target audience. This will be the hardest decision Windsor will make. Is it, the community, the current business community, tourism, recruitment of new business coming to the area. Alan makes some very good points with his three Vees. It is very hard to be all things to all people. The broader the audience the more you dilute the brand. It can be done, but you have to have clear understanding of who the brand is speaking to.

  • alan williamson

    March 30, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Marcia, Ed, Eli, Derrick

    Hot off the press, an example of the power of a single focus:

    BMW have opened their first Indian car plant in India’s Detroit – Chennai (formerly known as Madras). Last year less than 300 BMW’s were sold in the world’s second fastest growing economy. This year so far, the BMW pre-order bookings have quadrupled.

    BMW could have chosen anywhere in India to build their plant, but they decided on Chennai primarily because of the abundance of automotive skills in the area. Marina Beach – the world’s longest – was a secondary consideration. So was nearby Bangalore – India’s Silicon Valley.

    ‘Powered by Windsor’ could provide the city with a single focus and a big, big future.



    April 3, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    With regard to place branding, have any of the locations that contributors have helped position have to do anything profound fundamentally to correct their brand? Have they had to change the way the city does business, or heavily invest in a totally new direction to try and influenence change?


  • alan williamson

    April 4, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    YES! is the short answer to Ed’s question: Does a place need to change the way it operates, and invest heavily to influence change?

    The long answer:
    Trying to get a diverse group of stakeholders focused on a single big brand idea is tough.

    In the UK, I use the analogy of The Great Storm of 1987 which took out a large number of mature trees across southern England. The main reason: no strong Tap Root – that single root structure that goes deeper than the other roots and acts like an anchor.

    Every place (and organisation) needs a Tap Root to withstand the inevitable economic storms that hits every place (and industry).

    Windor’s potential Tap Root? Its automotive skills. The civic leadership needs to work with its automotive industry to (a) build the next generation of automotive skills and (b) launch the next generation of automotive entrepreneurs – and that’s just for starters.

    Brighton, the young, trendy, bohemian English resort was going downhill fast during the 1990’s, when its civic leadership focused on its key strength: the greatest concentration of IT/new media skills in the country. It facilitated meetings with all its small and embryonic new media entrepreneurs which generated momentum that not only survived the dot com boom and bust but it also laid the foundation for Brighton’s rennaisance during the early 21st century.

    Today, Brighton is not resting on its laurels, but is ready to re-generate to an even higher level, and has asked for my input which will be developed along the following lines:

    WANTED: Free Thinkers – for the new English Principality of Brove: Brighter Brighton and Hove Actually.

    The ‘Principality’ refers to the historical Prince Regent, Brighton’s first ‘creative Royal’ who built its iconic Brighton Pavilion (modelled on the Taj Mahal) and became infamous as the ‘dirty weekend’ destination.

    Bohemian Brighton and Bourgeois Hove are sister destinations where the culture clash provided the source of inspiration for its big brand idea.


  • Ed Roach

    April 4, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Are there any other great stories out there that show that positive change is possible if the city leaders have the will power to make it happen? These case histories will help show that to positively impact a place brand, it will take more than an image massage. Places who are serious in addressing their brand are also wiling to fund it’s development and control it’s growth.


  • Edward Burghard

    April 6, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I’d offer three thoughts to the discussion.

    First, I find it extremely helpful to remember that a brand is a promise. In the case of place branding, it is a promise made to a capital investor on the experience that can be expected if an investment is made in a specific location. It is extremely important, and very difficult, to manage that experience in such a way that it is delivered consistently.

    To do so requires education of all the people in the location that will come in contact with or serve that capital investor, on what their unique contribution is in helping deliver the promised experience. Even harder, it requires they accept accountability for their role and adopt a paradigm of always working hard to continually improve their ability to delight the capital investor so the overall promise is delivered.

    This challenge is often frustrating because the classic command-control structures found in companies are not in place to make the task manageable. Instead, place brand managers need to master the art of leading through influence.

    The second thought is in place branding product improvement looks like public policy reform or process change in addition to asset creation. It is important for a place brand manager to help the public sector better understand what the highest leverage opportunities are to improve the brand and make (or keep) it competitive for capital investment.

    Third, I’d comment on the requirement of authenticity in the promise. It is important to understand the current equity of the place and to decide if it is sufficient to be competitive. If the decision is that the equity is deficient, then the product must be improved before any communication campaign can be expected to work. There is an axiom in marketing that the quickest way to kill a poor product is through great advertising. The corollary in place branding might be – the quickest way to waste money and lose public support is to promote a non-competitive location.

    It takes courage to objectively see a location, particularly if it is your home. However, a coldly objective assessment of the competitivness of a location is the first foundational step on the path of place branding success.

  • Edward Burghard

    April 6, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    To Ed Roach’s post requesting examples, I’d offer the following url (sorry it is long) that gives highlights of the Northern Ireland place branding story.

  • Edward Burghard

    April 6, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    After spending a little time researching Windsor, one potentially interesting concept to explore might be to focus less on a specific industry (like automotive suggested in earlier comments) and more on the unique professional skill set represented in Windsor.

    On the surface, the industry portfolio and academic excellence suggest an expertise in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) discipline exists in Windsor. Focusing on a skill set avoids the risk of being too closely associated with a single indsutry and allows for an interesting collaboration between academia and the private industry.

    The implications and possibilities of this concept would need to be fully explored. You might be able to link the gaming industry into the mix based on the role statistics plays in games of chance. This allows a bridge between capital investment and travel & tourism.

    Without market research data to support the idea, I’d label this concept as a hypothesis that may or may not have merit. If it does have merit, then the assets of Windsor would likely need to be reorganized a bit to support the positioning and some new alliances between the academic and private sectors may need to be established. Hopefully at a minimum the notion is food for thought.

  • Marcia Hoeck

    April 6, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    Great conversation going on here, guys! Sorry to be so late coming in.

    Living south of Detroit as I do and having been to Windsor for business and pleasure many times, I think there might be a basic fly in the ointment in promoting Windsor as an “automotive brand” for its automotive expertise and its proximity to Detroit. The fact is that the automotive market in Detroit is extremely depressed at the moment, and it shows no sign of revival.

    The American automobile companies are laying off and giving early retirement to their workers in droves. Chrysler is on pins and needles, the entire organization is in the dark as to its future as a company. Ford and GM are on very shaky ground. Tier 1 suppliers have been decimated, broken up, and sold off. Jobs, pensions, and heath care benefits have been lost. Real estate values have plummeted (I know! My house is on the water, and we don’t think we’ll be able to sell it), and reports are that it will be ten years before the Detroit area can recover.

    Detroit can no longer support itself automotively, and it has even less to give to Windsor — the prospect of automotive business coming from Detroit to Windsor is not very bright. Windsor’s past as a tool and die city supporting Detroit doesn’t appear to be its future, as Detroit looks to outsource these functions to lower cost providers in China and elsewhere overseas. Even the economy of Toledo, Ohio, 75 miles south of Detroit (where my business is headquartered), is suffering badly from the downturn. And Windsor cannot be an automotive city without Detroit.

    That said, I think Windsor has a lot of other things going for it. Directly across the river from Detroit, it has a safer, more quaint, friendlier feel, at least to Americans. Going over to Canada is a hoot. The big casino sits prominently on the river and is rather attractive, especially when it’s lit up at night. Americans love Canadians, and promoting the people of Windsor would work well, I think. Ed, as a Canadian, may think that Windsor is Americanized, but to Americans it’s still Canada, and it’s still a bit different, a bit more fun, a bit whimsical, a bit wacky.

    Windsor has a lot of great restaurants, too. Little hole-in-the-wall restaurants with heaps of character and great food, and great variety — lots of ethnic foods. The nightlife is a bit on the wild side, but for some reason we forgive it in Windsor, it seems more acceptable, sort of international or cosmopolitan — after all, we Americans know we’re prudes. So it’s ok if the bars are totally nude in Canada, you know? In the U.S. it’s gross, but in Windsor it doesn’t sound so bad. One of the other posts mentioned Las Vegas, and I guess that Las Vegas glamour would work in Windsor, too.

    I think what I’m saying is, I don’t think we can count on Windsor’s automotive past for branding its future. Let Windsor be Windsor, it has a great personality — especially to Americans.

    Oh, and one more thing — the City of Windsor should get this branding campaign going pronto, especially if they’re depending on tourism from America. Now a birth certificate is all that’s required to pass the border by land, but after December 31, 2007, a passport will be required to re-enter the U.S. This will put quite a damper on spur of the moment visits to Windsor by Americans. Windsor will have to make it worth their while.


    April 7, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Edward, the collaboration between the academic and private sectors you refer to is actually happening. Most of it I believe is automotive related though. Great input – thanks.

    Thanks also for the Northern Ireland link, I felt it was right on the money and reinforced all of our positions here in this Brand Rally.

    The opening of the article emphasized a situation most places seem to take when they announce their re-branding efforts, namely the launch of a new logo and tagline. As much as I like parts of Detroit’s new branding efforts, this is exactly what they did. (At least from what I read in Crains Detroit Business) It is as though they view image as everything and structure as secondary (if it’s mentioned at all).

    Since both you and Marcia are from Ohio, your knowledge of Windsor adds another dimension to this discussion here.

    Marcia, I think that you would appreciate Eli’s suggestions which are outside of the automotive arena. I assume you read all the comments here, so you probably appreciated his concern that we may be focusing too heavily on automotive.

    When Windsor does head down the road to addressing it’s brand, many of these discussions will be excellent observations to consider. The most critical step as I see it, will be the make up of the branding team. These individuals will set in motion a vision that reflects their particular touch point in the community. As advocates of the brand, their selection must be very strategic so that buy-in is consistent through out the entire community and unconstructive criticism is minimized. I’m sure it can never be eliminated – politics being what it is.

  • Marcia Hoeck

    April 7, 2007 at 9:58 am

    One thing I forgot to mention — I know Ed Roach professionally, we’ve collaborated for four years, and I know his branding process. It’s excellent and it works.

    His insights on branding and his knowledge of Windsor make him the ideal person for this project. The city of Windsor would be lucky to have him — I hope they haven’t begun this project without involving him.

  • Edward Burghard

    April 8, 2007 at 7:49 am

    I offer the following link to a paper authored by Simon Anholt discussing the definition of place branding. I believe you will find it thought provoking.

  • Eli Portnoy (The Brand Man Speaks!)

    April 9, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Sorry for being out of the loop for a few days, but I am now up to date with all comments. Great dialogue here.

    Ed Burghard brought incredible insights into this matter and I greatly appreciate his expertise and thought processes.

    Leading by influencing is the only way to go given the diversity of stakeholders and the strength of their opinions and convictions as concerns their “hometown” environment.

    Authenticity is key as well. Too often with branding in general, not just place branding, entities want to create images for themselves that are fantasy, beyond aspiration, and illogical when they take on a branding assignment.

    I am also glad to read that some of us are concerned about the “obvious” automotive direction….which still may be a good one…but to assume that it is may leave out forgotten, undiscovered, ignored elements of Windsor that as Marcia has pointed out may be valuable to the exploration/exploitation process.

    Finally, with place branding, I believe, one does not have the luxury to focus on one target group vs. another. Place Branding inherently is about diversity and many audiences have to be addressed for the marketing effort to ring true and work long term.

    In the world today tourism is as important (if not more so) than non-tourism business development especially if non-tourism business is negatively impacted as with the Detroit area automotive industry. As I may have mentioned earlier, there is great risk using the “company town” philosophy for Place Branding.

    After years of pursuing tourists in Downtown Orlando, our process helped stakeholders realize that the downtown area needed to address the needs of locals first, tourists second since there was no way the area could successfully compete with Disney and Universal a few miles to the south. This combined with the luck of a societal shift from burb to urban living in general in this country helped get Downtown Orlando’s brand focused and re-built.


  • Edward Burghard

    April 10, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    In principle I agree with Eli’s point that there are multiple segments that need to be addressed when creating a robust and sustainable place brand.

    However, I would suggest that in practice the limiting nature of budgets require prioritization of the segments for investment. This need for prioritization is reasonably straight forward when branding a consumer product where ROI can be used as a guide; but, a fairly thorny issue when the currency of politics is applied.

    Strip the politics from the equation and the rank order of prioritization for investment can be based on a forecasted economic portfolio impact considering both wealth creation and quality of life.

    In the case of Orlando (and frankly many other cities across the nation), I would hypothesize that the place branding investment choices made did not adequately assess the economic portfolio risk of over focusing on the tourism industry. Similarly, in Detroit the risk of preferrentially focusing on the automotive industry to the exclusion of creating a balanced economic portfolio was problematic.

    In my experience, the principles of sound management of your own investment portfolio apply to managing a place brand’s as well. These principles offer a reasonable guide to effectively prioritizing segments.

    It always comes down to having a penetrating level of insight into the interdependancies of your choices, understanding the portfolio risk profile, implementing strategies to mitigate the risk, and proactively managing the portfolio with an eye toward long-term health.

    Effectively managing the place brand’s core assets (industries plus amenities) as a portfolio will help keep the brand promise relevant and sustainable.

    I hope this perspective is a helpful addition to Eli’s point that in place branding it is important to understand the implications of your segment prioritization choices.

  • Eli Portnoy (The Brand Man Speaks!)

    April 12, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Ed B:

    I agree with your post although I think you will agree it is nearly impossible to eliminate the political nature of Place Branding to be able to prioritize the segments for investment. Some community voices are more powerful than others and the Place Branding effort must be sensitive to that pressure.

    As concerns Orlando, no professionally directed Place Branding project “created” the tourist focus…Disney arrived 25 plus years ago (secretly I might add) and took control of the then sleepy town’s identity.

    Place Branding became a need as the “company town” orientation (Orlando=Disney) was notably presenting a myopic view of the “real” Orlando. This positioning hindered more diverse business development, including efforts to bring in higher paying jobs given the predominately low paying service job economy.

    Although not perfect conditions, Orlando has come a long way and is succeeding in growing beyond Disney and tourism into a mini-high tech and medical research center and the Downtown area has exploded with new development.


  • Steve Wright

    April 17, 2007 at 10:08 am

    This is a fantastic initiative and a great idea in terms of enlisting the expertise of folks who have been down this road before.

    As someone who was intimately involved in the development of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s ‘Canada. Keep Exploring” destination branding project and in Toronto’s ‘Toronto Unlimited” I have to echo the cautionary notes on rushing too early to a tagline.

    Canada Keep Exploring was extremely well received by stakeholders at large. Toronto Unlimited met with significant resistance. You can argue the merits of the two brands, but from an insider’s perspective, the major contributing factor was the way in which the two brands were launched.

    Both projects used similar methodologies (which were no unlike the process mentioned earlier in this blog). But when it came time to launch the brand, the CTC took an iterative approach while Toronto launched everything at once.

    With the CTC, we first launched the Brand – meaning the important and meaningful bits that helped people understand how we wanted to position Canada as a tourism destination. It took more time, and many meetings to communicate the logic behind the brand, our promise to consumers, and most importantly, the brand and consumer insights that had led us to the positioning. But over time, the Brand in its truest sense gained momentum and our biggest problem became an ethusiastic industry clamouring for the “pretty bits” – the logo, tagline and visual identity. When we later launched those pieces, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, because our stakeholders understood them in context – they hadn’t been allowed the visceral reaction to a logo and tagline without context.

    On the Toronto project, we launched with the logo and tagline. All the other pieces of brand definition were there, but it was simply too easy for everyone to fixate on, and take pot-shots at, the logo and tagline. Most damaging, we made the mistake of launching the brand as though we were announcing a new logo for a publicly traded company. The in-city ad campaign showed the logo and tagline and nothing else. It;s a very tricky thing to ask residents to see themselves in what is really an external-facing brand (witness Newfoundland), and by focusing the campaign on the logo and tagline absent any context we shot ourselves in the foot.

    There are endless stories of logos and taglines that were at first rejected then became iconic and well-loved. Hopefully, Toronto Unlimited will find its way over time.

    My advice? Take the time to launch the BRAND first, and do the tough slogging to spread the message. Once you’ve gained some momentum, then launch the logo and tagline. If you;ve done the work well (which with this team I’m sure you will), the logo and tagline will be a happy if a bit anti-climactic event.

    Best of luck. Windsor’s a great city and deserves a great brand.


  • Edward Burghard

    April 19, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I would encourage a skim of Simon Anholt’s paper on the definition of place branding. I have found it helpful when explaining the concept to stakeholders. I share it simply as a useful resource. Sorry for the length of the link.

  • Ben Virgo

    April 21, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Many thanks to Ed for opening this Brand Rally: Place Branding. It’s very interesting to read the dialogue between place brand professionals from around the world.

    I’m a marketing Consultant whose main interest is city and place branding and I’m originally from Windsor, England, UK. I hope its ok to join the discussion at this point.

    In this post my two contributing points are about: (1) Cities sharing a name and (2) Stakeholder buy-in.

    1. The branding of Windsor, Canada raises an interesting point about how to brand a city which shares a name with, from my -probably biased- perspective, a more famous town. Can this (as suggested above by Alan Williamson) be used as a positive or does it cause brand confusion? I’d be interested to read your thoughts.

    2. An important point about place branding is the number of stakeholders and particularly stakeholders who steer the brand. When branding a city it is imperative to get as much buy-in from as many diverse steerers as possible. Professor Leslie de Chernatony and I co-authored a paper in the Journal of brand management in which we discuss the importance of a shared vision to increase stakeholder buy-in to a city brand:;jsessionid=1x9q5sio4j46d.alice

    Without the various steerers and stakeholders playing their part in shaping the brand then there will be little buy-in and it will be difficult to sustain momentum. I also believe that a person, body or company is needed to co-ordinate the various steerers on a long term basis.

    Thanks for reading this post. I look forward to continuing this dialogue as we tackle the: Windsor, Ontario, Canada brand.

    Ben Virgo
    Guangzhou, Guangdong, PR China.

  • Steve Woodruff

    April 24, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Keeping in mind the “3 V’s” mentioned earlier, and making a tagline that recognizes a working culture but aspirations to move up the professional food chain, a concept such as “Shifting Up” might be workable. It has the automotive and blue-collar angle (implied), but also is ambiguous enough to encompass other themes.


    April 24, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    I came across a social science professor from the University of Windsor who came across our discussion here and he raised some interesting concerns in regard to place branding.

    Essentially he raises the issue of social conscience. He suggests that most of the time place branding appears to be driven by an economic engine as opposed to a social engine. For example he mentions,”…this approach to urban competition and planning for change does not guarantee a more socially just environment, and again I think Baltimore is a good reflection of that. It still experiences grinding poverty, racial and class segregation, and fiscal instability, even if Inner Harbor and Camden Yards are lovely places to visit.”

    It is an interesting perspective. I’ve invited him to join in the discussion when he has the opportunity.

    What is everyone’s opinion on a social conscience in place branding. It has got to play a role in some regard does it not? Although, I have to admit every time I read anything on the topic, (as the professor says) it is always predominently driven by economic concerns. I think the social conscience should be reflected in the brand values. The professor makes some good points.

  • alan williamson

    April 26, 2007 at 3:05 am

    Ed Roach’s social science professor is right on the money.

    “Without a cultural vision of the future, a place and its people perish into social and economic mediocrity.’ – ‘Brand’ the Marketect

    Focusing on ‘hard’ infrastructure projects without ‘soft’ cultural projects is like investing in a powerful computer hardware system complete with a bug-infested software system.

    The definition of culture goes beyond its narrow definition of the fine arts and the performing arts, and includes the aspirations, ambitions, attitudes, skills, talents, habits and taboos of a place and its people.

    If Windsor does choose to build an ‘Automotive’ culture – skills, talents and entrepreneural spirit – then it must also manage and exploit the culture clash between its ‘pro-automotive’ and ‘anti-automotive’ factions. Nobody said that destination branding was easy.

    That’s why the proposed ‘Summer Festival of Speed’ is such an important and potent brand idea. It will enhance the self-identity of Windsor’s citizens and at the same time provide an outlet for self-expression.

    ‘Powered by Windsor’ will not only have a massive effect on the ‘Three Vees’ (see March 28th posting above) but also build a solid cultural foundation resulting in social and economic bottom-line performance.


  • Steve Wright

    April 26, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    It will be a challenge to balance the pro-automotive-heritage forces and the folks who want to look forward to something new.

    All this chat about Speed Festivals and “Powered by Windsor” got me thinking about the obvious comparison: Flint, Michigan.

    Flint Sparks! plays off their once-proud automotive roots, but their attempts to capitalize on their heritage with an automotive museum, etc. have struggled over the years.

    It might be interesting to take a look at — a promotional site managed by the US Parks Service linking various automotive hotspots across the US.


    April 26, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    As much as i love the “Powered by Windsor” concept, personally I’d like for Windsor to strike out and re-define itself in a massive way. Taking President Kennedy’s lead with his moon walk challenge, I think a bold vision for the city’s future would be a catalist for change. Windsor should strive for something that will make competing cities think as incredulous.

    I can’t think think of any leader in recent history who has taken a stand and shown real vision on where their community should stand in the world. Lots of platitudes and spin but nothing that captures the imagination. Today sadly, leaders run on issues. If only we had leaders with the vision of Walt Disney who in the sixties struck out to develop the evironmental prototype city of tomorrow. (EPCOT).

    Sometimes I think we need less of a politcian and more of a visionary. Without a powerful vision all stake holders have to focus on is the negative (crumbling infra-structure, pollution, etc.). The vision is the soul of the brand. I’m suggesting a brand vision that embraces all segments of our society. Windsor has to aim for the moon ala Kennedy. Windsor’s moonwalk is out there waiting to be embraced and it will take our own visionary to make it happen and inspire all stake holders to get the seed in the ground and make it grow.

    As Allan says, “Nobody said that destination branding was easy.”


    April 30, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks Alan,

    One case for turning negatives to positives is the cost savings in time and money to completely change perceptions as opposed to addressing the negatives head on and turning the tables.

    What is the perception of Slough these days? Are they really considered to be Britain’s silicon valley?

  • alan williamson

    May 1, 2007 at 8:55 am


    Slough still has a negative perception among the UK population, but it’s Slough’s physical location within Thames ‘Silicon’ Valley which is the key.

    Thames Valley today is well known within the global IT community as home to the European HQ’s of Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Amazon, Computer Associates etc as well as the up and coming Indian software giants. (Birds of a feather really do flock together).

    But Slough lives in the shadow of its bigger rival Reading (pronounced ‘Redding’) the ‘unofficial’ Capital of Thames Valley and just 30-minutes drive from Slough (England really is a small country).

    The key strategy for Slough, despite its negative image, is to build the Thames ‘Silicon’ Valley branded category and try and move it up the European regional GDP per Inhabitant league table which currently looks like this:

    1. Central London
    2. Luxembourg
    3. Brussels
    4. Hamburg
    5. Stockholm
    6. Ile de France
    7. Thames Valley
    8. Wien
    9. Southern & Eastern Ireland
    10. Oberbayern
    Source: Eurostat

    The current wave of Eastern and Central European immigration led by the Poles is already having an impact on Slough which over the years has witnessed an Asian influx primarily Punjabis from north-western India and before them the southern Irish.

    I purchased a 2-bed residential rental property on the outskirts of Slough some 10 years ago for £25K (I got it quite cheap as it was an ex-local council house). Today it is valued at about £200K. If I were to extend it to (say) a 3-bed home using a cheaper Polish building contractor, the return on investment would be pretty spectacular – even for the UK market.

    I think the branding lesson for Windsor, Ontario is to build a ‘branded category’ with a future-focus (eg. Thames ‘Silicon’ Valley) and position itself as its ‘visionary champion’ or ‘Capital’ (eg. Reading is the ‘Capital’ of Thames ‘Silicon’ Valley while Slough is its ‘Business Capital’).



    May 1, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    I agree Alan, the future-focus for Windsor is key.

    Thanks for the information on Slough. I visited your country about a year and a half ago. Absolutely loved it – especially St. Ives. I paint for relaxation and that place was incredibly inspiring. The only thing I hated were the hedge rows – couldn’t see the scenery beyond. Someone should come along with a big hedge clipper and bring’em down to 2 feet.

  • alan williamson

    May 2, 2007 at 2:44 am


    With your artistic flair I’m not surprised you loved St Ives. One of my future postings will touch on developing its branded category – the county of Cornwall – as ‘The Studio of England’. As for its overgrown hedgerows, get ready for the ‘West Country Hedge-Trimmer Massacre’.

    Meanwhile watch out for my next posting in a few days time on the resort of Blackpool’s re-positioning from ‘England’s First Electric City’ to ‘Europe’s First EcotriCity’.


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