Evolution of a Destination brand

Evolution of a Destination brand

Rohit Hangal


The lifetime of a ‘Destination brand’ and its elements form a distinct identity till the next CEO comes along or for that matter the next advertising agency is on a trigger point pitch-spree! In an era, where destinations are more perceived than experienced, the hope to create the next tagline out of a century long destination baggage’ is pure ‘nirvana’. The Destination brand evolves from a ‘Promise’ it brings. Mere play of words or your agency’s most creative line may still fall short of delivery. What drives a destination to go for a change of direction? Is it merely to impose the new-found desire to create an identity as a ‘supermarket destination’ (there is something for everybody kind of approach) or a destination’s new-found love to focus on its geographical or cultural attribute!


Do Destinations reach a level of brand maturity, where they no longer require a help of a tag-line or a slogan? Destinations Marketers always seem to be in love with the ‘one big tagline’…What does it take a destination to be independent of any taglines or slogans? and let the consumer decide for himself on the attributes of the destination!


Tom Buncle, Managing Director, Yellow Railroad interestingly says “Tag lines are brilliant when they are inspired, convey a country’s benefits succinctly in a way that evokes the essence of the country, and could be nowhere else. But mostly they fail spectacularly. I’ve only ever seen two that really tick these boxes: – Croatia – “the way the Mediterranean used to be”. – Ireland used a tag line many years ago for the incentive market in the USA, I believe, along the lines of “Ireland – ancient birthplace of great times” – absolutely brilliant! Other good ones that have achieved impact are: – New Zealand – “100% Pure” and Costa Rica – “No artificial ingredients”


He further adds “Otherwise, sadly most tag lines are no more than distracting noise and marketing blah. How many can you remember? And how many can you look at and say they really talk to you in a way that epitomizes their country, as well as inspiring you? And how much money has been wasted with expensive agencies generating mediocre calls to action in insipid tag lines?”


If you can’t come up with the holy grail of a killer tag line, use a descriptive one (e.g. “Peru- Land of the Incas”) or be brave and don’t have one – like Australia and Texas.


One of the key elements of a branding success is the longevity of the branding elements such as the tagline if one, its logo and visible traits. Destinations trying to change its branding every time there is a change at the helm are purely not helping the cause.


Incredible India! is case – study material! A simple couple of words backed with a multi – million advertising budget and smart advertising visuals, has been bombarded the world over and over again till it claimed marketing nirvana. ‘Incredible India’ would not be claimed to be successful if it was not backed by the continuous bombardment over a period of the last about 10 years. One smart attribute of the campaign is that it did not talk beyond ‘Incredible India!’ it left the rest to its visual impact and the consumer’s imagination. It saved the creative team from putting their foot in the mouths!


The downside is India being what it is; it is a big country with a plethora of ‘marketable destinations / products’. The fact that India is often at the receiving end of natural and man-made disasters making cancellations of inbound tourist is a tad higher. When something like this happens; most times, tourists taking cue from our television channels on sublime ‘breaking news’ mode, do not realize how big India actually is; what happens in one part of the country seldom affects other parts.


It is more important than ever before, to create ‘regions / city / attractions’ into strong destination brands with an independent brand identity. Kerala has been one of a few success branding stories as far as India is concerned. They have not aligned with the ‘Incredible India’ bandwagon and have gone ahead and implemented an independent marketing plan and have delivered results.


Does having a ‘brand document’ help create a focus, especially for destinations?  Tom Buncle adds “Yes, absolutely. A set of clear brand guidelines – or toolkit – is the critical bridge that links the branding strategy to its implementation. It is the brand manager’s manual – and should also be distributed to all who are in any way projecting the destination brand internationally (e.g. NTO staff, tourism operators, airlines and, ideally inward investment promotion and development agencies, exporters and diplomatic posts – all of whom should ideally have been involved in developing the brand itself, as key stakeholders). It should explain what the values/essence, personality, positioning statement, emotional benefits and rational attributes are, what they mean, and how to apply them in marketing communications”.


“In other words, the brand toolkit is the vehicle that explains how to bring the brand to life in a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand way for everyone. Without it, the brand may be no more than theory and impenetrable gobbledygook for many people, no matter how brilliantly it has been conceived”.


How often have we seen the promise line change at every change at the helm? The destination brand gains momentum with its longevity in focus, and not on the ‘one smart tagline’ that change along with every season. At the same time a bad line that adds complexity of trying to sell a bit of everything and the kitchen sink, has to simplify itself into what the consumer will accept! Focus on one big attraction or an attribute, it does not matter if it is geographical or cultural. Super market approach to marketing destinations will not add value, either to the discerning tourist or to the scattered visitor number game!

2 thoughts on “Evolution of a Destination brand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.