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BrandingDestination MarketingMarketing Strategy

Does Your Destination’s Brand Stand Out?

In today’s competitive landscape, destination brands that think differently are the ones that succeed. New York’s iconic slogan, “I Love NY,” is simple yet encapsulates the essence of brand differentiation. It speaks to the heart of travelers, conveying a profound emotional connection to the city that never sleeps. This enduring tagline is more than just a slogan; it’s a declaration of love and a call to experience the unparalleled energy, culture, and diversity that define the Big Apple. In a world where destinations vie for attention, “I Love NY” stands as a testament to the power of a unique and resonant message, drawing millions of visitors to the state year after year.

Brand differentiation is the process through which a brand sets itself apart from competitors. It involves making a positive contrast that captures the attention and loyalty of customers. By doing so, brands can achieve several key objectives:

  1. Increase brand loyalty and advocacy.
  2. Stand out beyond pricing, products, or services.
  3. Boost brand recognition.

So, what exactly is brand differentiation, and how can destinations leverage it to their advantage?

Understanding Brand Differentiation

Brand differentiation is not about being different for the sake of it; rather, it’s about strategically standing out from the crowd in a positive manner. It encompasses various components, including experiences, stories, values, exclusivity, characteristics, and personas. Here are some key aspects that contribute to effective brand differentiation:

  1. Experiences: Creating memorable and unique experiences for visitors can set a destination apart. This could involve innovative events, immersive attractions, or interactive tours that leave a lasting impression.
  2. Stories: Compelling brand stories that highlight the destination’s history, struggles, and triumphs can connect with audiences on a deeper level. Authentic storytelling helps convey a brand’s personality and values.
  3. Values: Aligning with specific values or causes can differentiate a destination. This could include eco-friendly initiatives, support for local communities, or commitments to sustainable tourism practices.
  4. Exclusivity: Offering exclusive experiences or products can make a destination more appealing. Exclusivity can be achieved through pricing, luxury offerings, or membership clubs.
  5. Characteristics/Mascots/Personas: Giving a destination human-like traits or mascots can make it relatable and memorable. Personifying the brand can foster emotional connections with visitors.

Why Differentiation Matters for Destinations

In a crowded tourism landscape, destinations must capitalize on their unique qualities to attract travelers. Differentiation is like the “math” section in an academic decathlon—it’s the time to shine. Even when destinations offer similar attractions, experiences, or natural beauty, innovative branding and differentiation can be the key to success.

Strategies for Brand Differentiation

Destinations can implement several dynamic processes to boost their brand differentiation:

  1. Focus on the Magic of Brand Experience: Creating memorable experiences can leave a lasting impact on visitors. These experiences can range from interactive displays and themed areas to unique events and attractions.
  2. Be Exclusive Without Being Exclusionary: Brands can leverage exclusivity through pricing, luxury offerings, or limited-edition products. However, exclusivity should not alienate potential visitors but rather make them feel special.
  3. Market Unusually, Within Reason: Brands can stand out by taking creative and unconventional marketing approaches. It’s essential to be attention-grabbing without going overboard or offending the audience.
  4. Tell a Tale That Shows Your True Colors: A compelling brand story highlighting a destination’s history, struggles, and values can create a strong emotional connection with visitors.
  5. Implement Personification: Giving a destination human-like qualities or mascots can create an emotional bond with tourists. Personification can make the brand more relatable.
  6. Build and Show Your Expertise: Demonstrating expertise in a particular area can set a destination apart. Brands can achieve this through content, guest-blogging, and PR.
  7. Target a New, Niche Demographic: Expanding the target audience or focusing on a niche market can help destinations reach new visitors.

Examples of Destinations That Nailed Differentiation

Several destinations have successfully implemented brand differentiation:

Las Vegas, Nevada – “What Happens Here, Stays Here”:

  • Differentiation Strategy: Las Vegas positions itself as an adult playground for entertainment, indulgence, and excitement.
  • Branding: The iconic “What Happens Here, Stays Here” campaign promotes Las Vegas as a destination where visitors can let loose and enjoy a wide range of activities from world-class entertainment to upscale dining and nightlife.
  • Messaging: Las Vegas encourages travelers to embrace spontaneity, adventure, and the idea that what they experience in the city remains their secret, fostering an aura of escapism and thrill.

Nashville, Tennessee – “Music City, USA”:

  • Differentiation Strategy: Nashville positions itself as the ultimate destination for country music and songwriting.
  • Branding: “Music City, USA” underscores Nashville’s status as the heart of the country music industry.
  • Messaging: Nashville invites music enthusiasts to explore its legendary honky-tonks, visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, and experience live performances in a city that lives and breathes music.

Portland, Oregon – “Keep Portland Weird”:

  • Differentiation Strategy: Portland sets itself apart as a city that celebrates individuality, creativity, and unconventional thinking.
  • Branding: “Keep Portland Weird” is a grassroots slogan that highlights the city’s commitment to supporting local businesses, artisans, and unique cultural expressions.
  • Messaging: Portland invites travelers to embrace its eccentricity, explore its quirky neighborhoods, and experience a place where being different is celebrated.

These destinations showcase a diverse range of identities, from a music mecca to a city that embraces its eccentricity. Their marketing, branding, and messaging effectively communicate their unique attributes and appeal to specific audiences seeking distinct experiences.

Let us know if you would like to chat about your destination!

Rebecca Barnes

Rebecca aka DMO's Best Friend is the CEO of Imagine. With more than three decades of experience launching and operating award-winning companies, she gained invaluable insights into the intricate challenges that businesses encounter. Harnessing this expertise, she has build successful tourism marketing programs, initiatives, and campaigns for counties, cities, towns, venues, hotels, and captivating destinations. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her Grands, reading, traveling, and sleeping.

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