August 06, 2013

Destination Branding: A Spotlight on Cities Around The World

Confession: I absolutely love to travel. When I discover a new place and am able to soak in its secrets and beauty, something in me awakens. Because of this, I’ve always been drawn to travel and tourism branding/marketing/PR. Studying how destinations differentiate themselves fascinates me.


2012 was a milestone year for tourism – For the first time in history, more than one billion tourists travelled the world and five to six billion more were expected to have travelled within their own countries. Those are staggering numbers when you consider that 60 years ago, the number of international tourists was a mere 25 million.


With stats like that, it’s no wonder cities, states and countries are doing everything they can to attract visitors. A successful brand could mean millions (or even billions) of dollars for a destination.


So, because of my love of travel, this will be the first post in a series on destination branding (all based on our global office locations). We’ll start off looking at city tourism brands, then state and country brands and finally national and international brands. To reign in this comparison a bit, we’ll focus primarily on each city’s tourism identity and the positioning we find on its website.


Let’s get started…


Part One: Charlotte, Munich and New York


Charlotte, North Carolina

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) is the area’s umbrella organization for six tourism entities: Visit Charlotte (Charlotte’s Destination Marketing Organization [DMO]), the Charlotte Convention Center, the NASCAR Hall of Fame museum, Ovens Auditorium, Bojangles Coliseum and Time Warner Cable Arena.



From a brand perspective, Visit Charlotte has several identities or presentations. The first, only a few of us have seen before.



The second was a campaign launched in 2008 that is still used today. The messaging is pretty straightforward: Charlotte has a lot to offer both business visitors and casual tourists.




And, in the past year or so, Visit Charlotte has redesigned its website to better visually depict the area’s tourism diversity.



Interestingly enough, Visit Charlotte doesn’t really have a standalone brand. The focus is on CRVA and its six area attractions (Visit Charlotte even uses a CRV-focused boilerplate in its news releases). With Charlotte’s impressive growth over the past decade (both in economic development and tourism), it could be really interesting to see a stronger city brand emerge – we’ll definitely keep our eyes peeled.


Munich, Germany

Alphabetically, Munich is up next. From what I could find, Munich’s tourism information is located on its larger city website – it doesn’t appear to have a standalone website for tourism. That said, here is its city brand (which obviously plays a huge part in its tourism branding):



And, after some serious digging, I was able to find its tourism logo.



There are two areas of the city’s website that seem to have tourism landing pages (below), so this particular destination’s branding feels a little disconnected.





So, Munich doesn’t seem to have a particularly prominent tourism brand, but with more than five million visitors a year and a huge emphasis on its annual (and infamous) Oktoberfest celebration, it’s interesting that the destination still manages to feel like somewhat of a secret. And, judging by the images I found while perusing the website, a gorgeous secret at that. I’d almost argue that a big, flashy tourism brand might even do the charm of Munich a disservice, so for that reason, I’m okay with its simplistic presentation.


New York, New York

What do you even say about New York?


NYC & Company is New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization. Last year, the Big Apple welcomed a staggering 52 million visitors. It’s almost unfair, as this city doesn’t really need strong tourism branding. But it does – and it’s bright, flashy and everything that makes NYC unique.


The primary logo has two prominent executions, horizontal and stacked.




The travel destination uses the horizontal execution to superimpose images from around NYC. Here are two examples:




With so many stories to tell, NYC & Company has its work cut out for it. It does its best to give visitors easy access to the information they want and need. That said, it is still a bit overwhelming – but in so many ways, so is the city itself, so it kind of works.



On Thursday, we’ll round out our look at city destination branding by focusing on San Francisco, Seattle and Tokyo. Stay tuned!


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Disclaimer: This post is purely subjective. My background is in brand strategy (positioning, messaging and portfolio organization), not design. Good visual branding can be challenging to achieve, and I whole-heartedly respect designers at Addison Whitney and beyond.



“UNWTO: Annual Report, 2012.”,

“Charlotte’s Got A Lot: New Ad Campaign Visuals Show Just How Much.”,

“Munich Statistics.”,

“New York City Tourism: A Model for Success.”,



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