Action Speaks Louder Than Logos.

How does destination branding connect people to places?

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Leveraging the essence of a place as a destination is mandatory. Without it a place and its people cannot connect and thrive.

Destination marketing has become integral to the success of countries, cities and places. It’s necessary for destinations to communicate what makes them great. But what makes a destination great? Is it the food? Natural landmarks? Nightlife? A great place to raise kids? Quirky locals? Whatever it is, the branding of a destination is a promise of its value—and to truly be successful, it’s a promise that needs to be kept.

If the post-GFC world has taught us anything, it’s that authenticity matters. There is a real thirst for genuine experiences and meaningful connections in every facet of our lives, and this extends to our expectations from destinations. Aesthetics and logos serve as powerful visual representation of brands, but it’s the substance behind a brand that makes you want to come back. This was the case for the inner-city suburb of Redfern, where the need for destination branding resulted from an economic decline and a problematic perception of the area. This negative perception was affecting Redfern’s economic potential due to occupancy problems, low visitor traffic and empty shops.

Through consultation and market research, Frost* was able to uncover a key insight into the problem: that people from outside the area were afraid to go to Redfern. Once people did visit, they realised their perception no longer matched the reality. Conversations with the Head of the Aboriginal Housing Company, Mick Mundine, revealed that Redfern needed to achieve a good ‘spirit flow’. Our strategy was simple—we needed to amplify the ‘welcoming spirit’ so that everyone felt comfortable coming to Redfern. Like many of our branding solutions, the idea is one that people can readily embrace—the mission was to make Redfern welcoming. What better way to convey the idea of ‘welcoming’ than to design the identity around a graphic smile. The strategy was a cleverly packaged gesture to make Redfern a leader in demonstrating positive changes, inclusive to all. The brand was embraced by the whole community, and can be seen in shop windows, on car bumpers and even starred on Redfern Oval.

Similarly, North Sydney had developed its own reputation for ‘being a bit boring,’ says North Sydney Council’s General Manager, Warwick Winn. Our job was to help revitalise the reputation of North Sydney with businesses, especially at a time when the CBD was offering a wealth of new choices. Workshops and interviews revealed the insight that North Sydney offered businesses a unique work/life balance. This presented an opportunity to shift the focus from talking about the physical attributes of the area to talking about the benefits to a business. A strategy driven by ideas is a powerful activator, it’s easier for people to connect and engage with an idea than objects or buildings.

As a result the brand is anchored in the idea of a ‘happy balance’—brought to life through a concept centred on the tagline ‘Happiness works here’. Rather than using traditional advertising, a content and experience-driven campaign has opened up new ways to communicate with target markets and new partnerships with local workers and businesses. The crowd-sourcing concept puts the content into the hands of current and potential North Sydney workers to spread positive messages about the area. There is also a dedicated Spotify playlist to represent the feeling of happiness in North Sydney.

This is the importance of understanding the difference between designing a logo for a city and effective destination branding. It’s our objective to find the ‘truth’ of places like Redfern or North Sydney and make that truth beautiful. We take the authentic assets of a place and connect these with people to make it a destination.

Warwick Winn
GM, North Sydney Council
Strategically uncovering our truth as a precinct has shifted how we communicate.
Andrea Roberts
Manager Economic Development and Culture
Broken Hill City Council
Uncovering the truth that carries a place or a city is the crux of destination branding.”

The Broken Hill brand is another application of this philosophy where we unpacked the existing assets of the area with a clever and meaningful brand strategy. We worked alongside the client to understand the spirit of the city, respond to it and empower its people to capitalise on the gems that already existed.

With major shifts in the Australian economy, the historic mining city of Broken Hill decided to better position itself as a destination. After some intensive consultation with the locals and community leaders, we discovered that Broken Hill is not a place for complainers. It is a place where people get things done and make things happen, where the union movement was born, where women’s rights took shape. Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of Desert was filmed, and the outback isn’t just a nice idea, but a daily reality. Broken Hill is the real heartland of Australia—a place that’s completely ‘For Real’.

‘For Real’ expresses everything about Broken Hill in an authentic and simplified way that locals could own, use and apply to everything they do.

Ant Donovan
Group Creative Director
The timeless appeal of a true icon was harnessed and the principles which make it relevant today became the starting point for the communication.”
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