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Place Branding Destinations as Places of Desire

Destinations as Places of Desire

Marion Heine

Interview with Marion Heine, Founder and COO, spring • brand ideas GmbH, Member dan pearlman Group

How do you communicate a destination?

First and foremost, destinations are places – places for art, for learning and teaching, for information sharing or pleasure, for socializing, for politics or business. The essence of all of these is that they’re places where people come together. And naturally, communications experts play a critical role in shaping that essence. To do that, we first need to have a holistic understanding of these places. Working from that comprehensive understanding, we then energize them through communication, turning them into places of desire – places people want to go to and keep coming back to.

And how do you do that?

One example is the marketing campaign for the city of Berlin. As a guiding principle, we decided to use the hashtag #freiheitberlin to center the campaign on the city’s unique feeling of freedom (Freiheit). Freedom is the essence of the history, attitude, and options that Berlin offers its residents. We very intentionally kicked off the campaign with an “Ode to Freedom,” which appeared without any logo or source and focused on quotes about freedom from famous people. Next, we got up the nerve to ask Berliners, one of the toughest target groups in the world, what Berlin meant to them. The result was a set of unconventional images that told the story of Berliners’ attitude to life and freedom. The “what,” “how” and “why” of everything we communicate ultimately comes down to people. The goal of communication has to be to fulfill people’s needs and desires, and to build real relationships. Only when you truly reach people through communication can you create dialogue. Otherwise you’re just landing UFOs that will always remain alien.

How complex are these relationships?

To put it in philosophical terms, relationships with places form in much the same way as relationships with people. Ideally, places need to have a “magic moment,” a love-at-first-sight experience. When a place speaks to me with a special language and a special look, it moves me to enter into a relationship with it. Every time I come back, I’m building trust and creating new memories and experiences. In time I come to connect the place with a feeling of familiarity. My relationship grows. Negative experiences damage the relationship and can eventually cause me to “fall out of love.” So you have to be constantly fostering the bond through communication. As communication experts, we’re significantly involved in that. A place has to speak to me before and while I’m visiting it, and also when I’m no longer there – for example, via digital communication channels, where I can share my visit as a “grammable” experience.

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