hotels and wine tasting experiences,
and find out about special offerings and
discounts at specific wineries.
The Nashville CVB’s “Live Music Guide”
enables visitors to access information
about where and when artists are appearing at various spots around the city.
“Music is our brand and our product—
it was important for us to have an app
that really addresses this,” said Deana
Ivey, chief marketing officer for the CVB.
“Meeting planners ask about it and we
promote it at the registration desk. It’s
very handy for people to use when they
want to go out after functions. It has augmented reality, so when you step outside
the hotel or convention center, you’ll see
what’s happening within a few blocks of
where you are.”
Valley Forge, Pa.
“The old adage that a picture is worth
a thousand words no longer applies to
modern digital marketing,” said Edward
Harris, vice president of marketing and
communications for Valley Forge Tour-
ism and Convention Board (VFTCB).
To that end, the VFTCB launched the
cutting-edge Montco360.net, offering
more than 30 interactive virtual tours of
the most popular attractions and event
venues in Montgomery County, all filmed
Tourism Vancouver encourages local
bloggers to post content on the bureau’s
Inside Vancouver website.
“It’s very personalized information
that gives the viewpoint of those who live
here, whether it’s about where to take a
bike ride or where to get a great glass of
wine,” said Dave Gazley, vice president of
meeting and convention sales. “People
are looking for authentic experiences.”
The Rise of PLACE BRANDING
What is it about a city that enables it to attract meetings,
leisure travelers, investors
and new residents? Chris
Fair, president of Van-couver-based Resonance
Consultancy, grapples with
these questions as he advises CVBs and DMOs around the globe on place
branding—a strategy for using a destination’s
strong points to give it a competitive advantage
in the marketplace.
Meetings Today sat down with Fair to get his
take on why place branding is an important tool
What are the key influences now in regards
to choosing a location for meetings, travel or
In the past, decisions were largely determined by
the city’s hardware, which includes infrastructure
such as convention centers and hotels. But as
the economy has shifted, it’s now less about the
hardware and more about the software, which
are the experiential aspects.
This is especially true for meetings. Organizations are not focusing so much on the convention package but instead are looking at the
brand and identity of the city and what it means
for their particular event. For example, the TED
conference relocated to Vancouver not just for
the infrastructure but because of what the city
represents for who they are trying to attract.
Does some of this have to do with the fact that
so many cities now have the basics covered in
terms of convention centers and nearby hotels?
It’s part of it. The competitive advantage of
infrastructure has been watered down in that
many cities have the equivalent hotel brands and
meeting space facilities to offer.
What is the key to successful place branding?
When it comes to positioning and branding a
city, people think it’s about logos, but it’s not. It’s
about focusing on the key characteristics of your
destination. If it’s not authentic, it will not ring
true. It will be seen as marketing mumbo jumbo.
Marketing can be an outcome of the process,
but the process starts with assessing the destination and understanding its key characteristics.
This could be about the institutions and corporations that are there or the experiences available
such as shopping, culture and nightlife. It can
also be about the people who live there. You
need to identify those comparative differences.
That’s what the brand really is.
What impact is the Millennial generation having on place branding?
We do a lot of research on Millennials, asking
what they look for in a city in which to live or
vacation. We see that a lot of those elements are
similar. They are much more interested in the
software of the city than in the hardware. The big
institutions are not as important a draw for them
as they have been for Baby Boomers. Millennials
are looking for the experiential quality of the city,
which is a reason why cities like Portland, Ore.,
are drawing so many young people.
How can cities best communicate what they
have to offer?
They can do this through authentic, intelligent stories that help people understand their
key characteristics. They can do this through
storytelling on film and through social media. It’s
best to focus on specific positioning, rather than
trying to be everything to everyone.
One great strategy is to enlist ambassadors
from key industries and leverage these people to
help attract meetings and events. Associations
are drawn to cities where there is an authentic
group of thought leaders they can connect with.
It’s not just about the city’s beauty, but about
the depth of experience it offers, whether in
academics or industry.
What are reasons why some organizations
bypass certain cities?
In the post-financial crisis world some organizations are not going to certain places because of
what the city represents. Government conferences are still not going to Las Vegas and many
organizations continue to shy away from pure
resort destinations. The perception issue has
had lasting repercussions for the MICE industry.
Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.