What does branding mean in today’s technological society? Does everyone truly understand what it is, what it means? Where does authenticity come into play? Does our social media give greater depth to the definition, the meaning and characteristics of branding of destinations? What about the three environments from which motivations, decision-making behavior develop; natural/physical, socio-cultural and economic? Is branding more than an advertising/marketing tool used to promote a concept, a place or a person?
We all seek some understanding of the complex world we live in. We seek to affix labels, group it into order and come up with a name. Should we? Should we try to gain order in a world that is in constant flux? All of us try probably to articulate why we have deep abiding emotions for a place, a destination, a ritual (i.e. event) and those with products want to capitalize on those emotions to cause you to act. They want you to recognize, in their message, something familiar that tugs, and pulls, pushes you to make a decision. They want a mutually beneficial exchange that creates values for both parties. Does branding hurt tourism?
Advertisements, marketing specialist want to give those emotional strings names. Scotland has three to illustrate its sense of place and identity. “Enduring, human and dramatic (VisitScotland).” Any person that has visited Scotland or seen a picture can assimilate those adjectives and affix them to that product. Every day as I scroll through Colin Campbell’swork on Flickr, I feel my heart strings plucked and wish I was still living in Glasgow. I wish I was up in the Highlands walking, smelling the sweet air or at the Drover’s Inn having a pint and a good meal with friends. Incidentally, Colin has taken some outstanding pictures of Scotland and they have been featured in ads for VisitScotland. Are these images though authentic?
Every place has its bad side. Most of the people that I talk to when I mention Scotland or the UK, comment on the weather. When I travel to Washington, DC, I know from having lived there, you don’t travel to certain sections. Again, the image, the news, the information disseminated through the media figures prominently in the decision making process. How do we cut to the heart of a place? How do we find a realistic point of view? Do we really want to or allow the place to speak for itself? Do we view it in the raw without any manipulation of images? Again, the motivations for tourism are different for each individual, each member of society and we need to recognize that opportunity that presents.
Neil Oliver’s voice on the adverts for VisitScotland Creative campaign affixes a human aspect to branding. The human element has always been the crux of any hospitality and tourism venture. The human element puts a face, a voice, a welcome behind a place. Equity, value of branding is more than just something tangible but the intangible elements that you might not be able to equate with value. You might not be able to articulate what it means to you. The human element is more than just those that work in the industry but all stakeholders that have a vested or potential to engage in the act of tourism. Even those arm chair travelers that sit at a desk some where, typing away at a computer, posting on blogs or uploading images to a web site or creating stories from their own minds and research. Connections are some how made through the nexus of linkages made with technology. How many times have you read a good book and the place in which the story originates steps from the shadows and is actually a character? How many times have you watched a movie (i.e. Lord of the Rings) and the place is also one of the antagonists or protagonists of the story. That the place figures in the plot.
Do we expand and create a deeper mythology with the linkages made through social media, social CRM? Mythology in that incidence then takes on a whole new set of rules. The definitive point of divergence is when the mythology or developed expectations become realized. Value or currency of that reality is demonstrated in the compilation of images and words. So the question remains on how branding has evolved over time. How technology is pushing the boundaries of the concept into greater depths. I wonder if we should even call it branding any more or something else. A host of questions remain.