In light of the place branding project presently being undertaken by the city of Williams Lake, the Tribune interviewed Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association CEO Amy Thacker about the concept of branding and marketing.
Without hesitating Thacker said there is value to marketing and place branding.
“A tourism brand represents the essence and characteristic of a place. It’s all about authenticity, stories, people and perception, so it’s a sense of the place, culture and history that is our destination’s story.”
Her organization has used the tag “Land Without Limits” since it was adopted in 1999 by what was then the Cariboo Tourism Association.
Geoff Moore, Travel Media Relations with CCCTA, said the tag emerged two years after the new crown corporation Tourism BC was created in 1997.
“By the spring of 1998 TBC began funding and facilitating a branding process with four of the six tourism regions in the Province,” Moore said.
“The Cariboo Tourism Association (CTA) worked in conjunction with TBC and the stakeholders of the region gathering research data and hosting meetings with the goal to help create an accurate authentic brand tag line.”
At the 1999 CTA annual general meeting held in Quesnel the “Land Without Limits” tag was adopted, along with the new name Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association.
By February of 2000 CCCTA marketing collateral included a new logo and the tag “Land Without Limits.”
Often a brand and marketing are two different tools, Thacker said.
“What we see in branding is often a tagline and graphics and imagery which are the marketing tactics and campaign pieces, but the brand is really that authentic perception that the public has, whether it’s an object, a vehicle and a place.”
A brand becomes the way in which a place or an asset is perceived by potential visitors, whether they are coming for leisure or looking to set up a business, she explained.
“It’s about perception so a brand is about that sense of place and what people think of us. Very often communities have a brand whether they are conscious of it or not. It’s not always tied to marketing.”
In a very successful situation, those things are all aligned, she suggested, using “Super Natural British Columbia” as an example.
“Super Natural British Columbia is the trademark and tagline, but the branding perceptions of people coming to B.C. is nature, value, amazing experiences, unique stories and First Nations cultures. It’s all of that essence woven together that makes the brand.”
A brand works in relationship to the things around it, she added.
The Canadian Tourism Commission brands our country with the tagline of ‘Keep Exploring’ and that Canada is about people and experiences and wide open spaces.
“Then the province puts their piece on that and then ourselves as a region uses ‘Land Without Limits’ and our brand is about incredible people and experiences and good value for money, the great outdoors, untouched wilderness, and our ecosystems.”
The social fabric is all woven together and that’s why brands are powerfully tied to perception.
“Our place brand is how we’re perceived by visitors or people we want to attract but how we locally perceive something is very different than how a visitor perceives something.”
Marketers use research to drive decisions and try to take personal biases out of the picture in order to be aware that people come with different perceptions of the places they live.
“We have to make sure that the brand we’re portraying is authentic to the experience that visitors are having,” Thacker said.
Marketing increases awareness and shapes perception and creates actions which develop a visitor economy, which ultimately contributes to the brand, she added.