I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. I’ve traveled the world from the rainforests of Costa Rica and the top of Mt. Fuji to the rice fields of Vietnam and most recently, the wine valleys of Portugal. I especially have an affinity for Southeast Asia with a combined love of the food, culture, emphasis of spirituality and nature, and a change of perspective in living your daily life. My husband and I have gotten packing our things in one-backpack each to a science. We’ve learned the tricks of the trade and how to quickly adapt in countries of, to us, unknown languages.
We recently ventured off to Portugal for a week-long trip,beginning with an extended weekend in the Azores, followed by a short flight to Porto. We decided to travel from North to South exploring the smaller coastline towns with unfortunately limited time to visit them all. This recent trip particularly sparked my interest in diving into branding for a specific location. How do countries (or their respective tourist departments) create a marketability factor around a region? How do you create enough emphasis and oomph for a traveler to spend their time and money to choose a location as their next destination?
According to Robert Govers, a leading expert in place branding, image and tourism expert,place branding is defined as “the process of discovering, creating, developing and realizing ideas and concepts for (re)constructing place identities, their defining traits and ‘genius loci’ and subsequently building the sense of place.” Place branding, also known as destination branding, emphasizes the most attractable components of a location. This sometimes may be its beaches, rainforests, or temples. Other places may be highlighted by their food or cultural events. Place branding does differ from place marketing. The branding piece is who the location identifies itself as. The marketing is about how the identity is communicated to potential visitors. Similarly to other branding projects, place branding creates a reputation around a specific location in order to enhance its appeal. This is supported through advertising campaigns, catchy slogans, city/country ambassadors, and investments into the location’s infrastructure, mobility, and scalability. Ultimately, place branding creates an evolving culture of tourism to capitalize on its main features and bring a financial boost to the local economy.
Branding for a specific destination requires a specific tone highlighted through its typography,color palette, imagery and supporting visuals. My recent travels through Portugal lay the foundation for an excellent case study on place branding. Lisbon was the host for the 2018 Web Summit which was marketed internationally. Through its web presence and marketing campaigns, the branding was felt throughout the city as travelers from near and far attended for the 4-day conference.
With a focus geared around tech, target attendees included entrepreneurs from small startups to well established companies (who once may have fit the small-startup category). To emphasize the entrepreneurial spirit, Lisbon creatively and strategically included a city-wide campaign called “Made of Lisboa.” This campaign captured the essence of being an entrepreneur and innovator within a supportive startup community. Posters and 3D signage developed a tone, personality, and story line of the passion and diversity behind a startup founder.
The Boracay Islands, a small island located off the coast of central Philippines, struggled with its tourism and destination identity. The once secret island in the 1980's was a local favorite for families as a getaway. After being featured in a handful of American movies, the island boomed with 260,000 annual visitors by 2000. This number skyrocketed to 650,000 in 2009 which grew to 1.2 million visitors in 2012. With the overpopulation in their tourism industry, the Boracay Islands fell quickly to an abundance of litter, raw sewage, and clutter. As a result, the island was closed for a six-month revamp in February, 2018. The island was sanitized, government workers were relocated, and special task forces were tiven the task of building a better infrastructure. Destination branding, although primarily focused on bringing positive economic impact, can negatively impact the environment and community. With the recent re-opening in October, the Boracay Islands required a new branding strategy to re-engage potential travelers. They will need to continue to work on their branding to alter the negative perception that it once may have within the international traveling industry.
Capturing the vibrancy of Portugal's culture, food, and beaches, contrasting tones of saffron yellow and venice blue were used to display the country's landscape and decorative style.
With a targeted goal of portraying specific coastal regions of Portugal, photography with bright colors, textures, and patterns were considered within the branding process. A selection of photos (though not all used within the above website design) can be found below.
Place or destination branding requires an insider to mold an outsider's perspective. It's a process of discovery to determine what the heart and essence is of a specific location. From beaches and art galleries to places of worship and landmark events, destination branding brings the five senses together to create a story behind a location. Consider the branding after effects. Will an increase in tourism create a negative impact on the environment? Does the infrastructure support an upsurge of visitors? As we look into new ways to bring new destinations to life, the story of the Boracay Island should be remembered as an example on how place branding can create and uplifting, yet crippling affect.