An export’s place of origin is the hidden brand asset of the 21st century, according to Jeremy Hildreth, Thrilling Cities co-founder and co-author of Brand America.
Thrilling Cities markets itself as the “only exclusively place-oriented branding and creative agency in the world,” working with different media to promote brands based on where they are made and other aspects of a place that attract people to a particular region.
Place branding was one of the major topics Hildreth addressed during his visit to our class this Wednesday. Hildreth proposed the idea of six branding techniques that his company works with when promoting a city or product. These six included direct advertisements that draw visitors, tactical communications, “piggy backing” communications, policy changes, dramatic or symbolic actions, and place of origin labeling.
One example of Thrilling Cities’ use of direct ads and tactical communications was the company’s campaign for the London Tourism Board. Thrilling Cities was faced with the challenge of promoting the largest city in Europe and creating an identity for London that would break perceptions and encourage people to visit. Hildreth said one of the guiding principles of place branding is that if people understand a place better, they will like it better.
The “Visit London” campaign aimed to do this and used traditional advertising media such as posters, social media and freebies, while using the ads to acknowledge certain aspects about London that are unique to the city. The particular claim that “It rains more in Rome,” was especially successful because it was both direct and used researched data to negate London’s rainy stigma.
Hildreth also spoke about the company’s publicity campaign for the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. Rather than create promotional content that showed the architecture or quality of life of the area, Thrilling Cities aimed to find what made Vilnius stand out from other mid-sized European cities. The answer came with using street gymnasts performing stunts on city buildings and structures through a creatively shot tourism video. This helped identify Vilnius as a vibrant and active place where traditional European charm and modern lifestyles blend harmoniously.
Though the Vilnius campaign “piggy backed” off of the city’s background to show off its cultural oddities, Thrilling Cities’ Mongolian cashmere project focused more on establishing Mongolia as a premier exporter of a highly sought after product.
Hildreth explained that about 40 percent of the world’s cashmere is produced in Mongolia, though the country is not well-known for this fact. Thrilling Cities helped develop the “Mongolian Noble Fibre” designation in an effort to brand Mongolia as a source of quality cashmere. Similar to the theory with the Visit London campaign, the Mongolian cashmere project aimed to help people understand the country as an exporter of cashmere, in turn encouraging people to buy the product because they associate Mongolia as a leader in the cashmere industry.
The argument that the “Made in ____” space is the next great advertisement was fascinating to think about because many of our purchasing decisions are based on an export’s place of origin. Some people are more prone to buy a German car than others because they have been led to believe through strategic advertisement that the country’s automotive technology is superior to another country’s product. Other customers are drawn more to apparel designs that have names and logos associated with an Italian background because that country is considered to be a leader in the fashion world.