A couple of advice from Jose Filipe Torres, the world's leading expert on place branding from Portugal

Logo is not a brand
Some people think that they can create a logo and do nothing. But it doesn't work like this. Nobody knows about the logos of Japan and Italy because a logo is not a brand. Brand is associations that arise when you think about Moscow or New York.
How to find a target audience
The first step in creating a brand strategy is finding a target audience. There are three types of target audience: international investors, tourists, and talented people; and three promoting strategies: city for tourism, city for investment, and city for talents. First research and surveys must help you understand what kind of strategy will be more effective.
What to do if there’s nothing interesting at this place?
For example, there is some region that is not famous, nobody knows about this place and it is not interesting for investors, because it doesn’t have visible advantages.
You need to carry out research, speaking with inhabitants and opinion leaders. After that you identify goals and ask for advice specialists. Now you need to determine what kind of investment you want to attract, for what kind of economic sectors.
For example, the research showed that in this region there is a very good medical institute. It is cool even if there is nothing interesting besides this institute.
What is marketing?
It is not logos and advertisements. You need to create a region with one of the best research medical centers. Also, you understand that you can’t do it right now.
There are three things you can start with:

  1. Invite 50 most popular and respectful scientists to work in this region.
  2. Attract 150 international students to study at a local university
  3. Find one big medical company to invest in this region

How can you attract these people if you are not perceived as a leader? Look for something that can interest them: the cost and the quality of living, the developed infrastructure, good ecology, etc. Marketing strategy should be aimed at making life of these people comfortable and easy when they live in your city.
How do stereotypes work?
Place branding is not about reality. It is about stereotypes. Prejudice is the key factor and if you don’t take it into account, the country loses a lot of money. You need to work with prejudice. You know a lot of stereotypes about your country and you should work with them.
Why is it bad to lie?
It is unnecessary to be perfect to start a branding campaign. There are many cities and countries that have problems in the spheres of politics, economy, and so on. It all depends on your point of view. But you should never give promises that you can’t keep.
What kind of goals do you set?
Branding strategy should have measurable goals. It helps to track the results. If you don’t have a methodology and ways to track effectiveness, your branding strategy will fail.
If you decide to invest million euros in a city’s brand strategy, you will need to show people the results of the work, something that can be measured. Of course, not all changes for the better are due to the branding strategy, but you need to focus on how your goals will affect the economy or social life, how they will affect, for example, GDP growth, investment and tax revenues to the budget, salary range, the number of students and graduates employed in new companies, and so on.
Author: Elena Butko, 2nd year student
You can find the original interview here: