For organizations to stand out among competitors or similar organizations, they must have a strong brand identity. It’s the same for destination marketing. It’s easy for destinations to seem very similar due to what they offer, the type of people they attract, etc. However, if they have a strong brand identity that invokes their brand promise, every time someone who is a “fan” of a brand is exposed to that brand, they will have positive brand reinforcement. If they are not (yet) a fan, or even if your brand just makes them remotely curious, you are also likely to gain traction as a potential option for a future visit.
We can certainly cite numerous brand identities that are instantly recognizable by nothing more than a logo. These entities have invested in their brands to the point that they don’t even need the name of their organization with their logo in order for their brand to be almost universally recognized.
While this takes time and often a significant investment, it can be argued that the most important (and often overlooked) component of building a brand is to protect it. This allows the brand’s owner to justify long-term efforts to build brand recognition as well as extending legal rights to efforts that protect the brand.
However, if your destination has not invested in developing a brand or mark that could over time become synonymous with your destination, then you have nothing to protect. In some cases, this void left unfilled may encourage others to develop brands related to your destination that they then own. They may then invest their own resources in growing to be significant identifiers of your destination in an effort to reap the rewards for doing so.
Some might argue that this phenomenon has a positive net effect because your respective DMO does not have to invest in the brand development, protection and brand-building efforts—someone else shoulders those expenses and ongoing efforts. While this circumstance may sound appealing, there are several pitfalls to consider when the brand that someone else develops begins to represent your destination:
- Does that brand fully appreciate or convey the essence of what your destination has to offer?
- If that brand becomes synonymous with your destination, your DMO will have to seek permission from the owner (and will often have to pay royalties to the owner) to use that brand.
- That brand will be in the control of the owner of that brand, not under the control of the DMO.
None of these scenarios are desirable.
One widely recognized example of this is the popular 30A brand.
It didn’t come from the actual branding efforts of the area itself, it came from an independent creator. That creator made the effort to develop, protect, promote, and then build that brand. While 30A is simply a highway that runs through the Florida panhandle, it has become a well-known brand representing a popular tourist destination through an independent company.
The only real alternative is to be proactive in your organization’s efforts to develop your own brand and then to go through the effort and expense to protect (and “own”) it. This way, your Destination Marketing Organization can ensure that the brand that you (then) work to make synonymous with your destination:
- Fully and appropriately represents what your destination has to offer.
- Is fully within your control to use as your DMO desires.
- Can be protected against inappropriate and/or undesirable usage.
- Can be appropriately licensed and any royalties due be paid to your DMO.
A previous example of work Stamp performed “for hire” for a DMO client that we believed would benefit from brand protection was for North Little Rock, Arkansas.
You can read more about the process of developing this unique brand identity here, but two important points to consider related to a project like this are:
- The creative development contract that any client must require should state that “upon payment in full of the agreed contract price, the client (not the creator) retains full ownership and all rights to the creative product”.
- The client should then undertake the legal process for that client to properly register their new mark in the name of their respective legal entity.
For any organization to be easily recognizable, unique and to ultimately have success in their marketing efforts, starting with a strong brand is imperative. And hopefully, you will take note from the above that protecting your brand by properly registering it to ensure future ownership and control of that brand is more than worth the extra up-front effort and expense.