An international brand resource for neighbourhoods, towns, cities, regions and economic clusters.

Hawaiian Vacations

Posted by Claire Matthews
I recently spent some time on the island of Kauai, also known as the "The Garden Island," in Hawaii. We tend to think of Hawaii as one place, but actually it's many places – an archipelago of islands, including six main ones, all of which compete for tourist dollars. Instead of going to Kauai, I could have gone to Oahu, "The Gathering Place," to the less developed Lanai ("The Private Isle") or indeed to the island of Hawaii – "The Big Island."

Each of them is breathtakingly beautiful and full of potential adventures. And each of them benefits from the amazing Hawaiian brand. But while they are united in their desire to get you to come to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, they are also brand competitors. In the same way, regions on each island compete for visitors. So while the Hawaiian Islands possess many of the same attributes, they are working hard to differentiate themselves from each other.

And so it goes in placebranding: country vs. country, region vs. region, city vs. city – ever smaller units trying to find a unique brand that will attract not only visitors, but investors and residents too. There is a tourism website for the entire United Kingdom, individual sites for England, Scotland, and Wales, then websites for each county within each country, and then for individual cities. You can "Explore Paradise" in the Lake District or "Surprise Yourself" in the Highlands of Scotland. The website for South England ("Closer than You Think") offers individualized sections for nine separate counties, the largest of which is only slightly larger than Rhode Island.

So what does all this mean? For the individuals and organizations involved in the branding process, it means that, unless a brand truly reflects the reality of a region and its people, it just won't fly. With so many brands competing for attention, a weak or artificial brand will soon be lost in the dust of the competition. That's why it's more important than ever that a placebrand grow out of the beliefs and vision of the people from the place itself – so that they can live it and "sell" it with authenticity and pride.

Brand "buyers" – visitors, investors and potential residents – are looking for the "it factor" – that unique, true, compelling characteristic that speaks to their soul. They probably don't know what it is, but they know it when they see it, and it speaks directly to them. That's why, when you're developing a brand, it's so important to know who you're aiming it at – which is what the islands of Hawaii are working hard to figure out.

After all, partiers don't want to go to an isolated beach, and adventurers don't want to go to the bars in Waikiki.

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Placebrand.ca© is a Taiji Brand Group project that explores the role and importance of place branding. We invite your comments and contributions at any time.