Where Creativity Lives: A (Branding) Tale Of Two Cities

Delaware vs. New York: a video smackdown proves destination branding is tougher than you might think.


Over the years, in addition to consumer and business brands, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of cities to brand their communities as destinations.

Destination branding (or “tourism branding”) has a different set of factors and a different approach in that one is often dealing with many stakeholders with varying vested interests and, if that weren’t enough, the local government also can get involved, subjecting you to mind-bending committee meetings that could make the most enthusiastic group of fans rush the exit door.

Why is destination branding so unique?
Because your “canvas” isn’t a package or a poster or even a single surface or building. Your canvas is instead an entire community which can consist of surfaces, buildings, different disparate shapes and textures, and more.

There are examples of great success in destination branding, such as Las Vegas’s “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” campaign, which was launched in 2003 and propelled the city onto four consecutive record-busting tourism years. But not every destination branding solution will achieve that success, and there are certain details that you need to manage to prevent stupid mistakes.

The cost of making a mistake. 
While some mistakes are minor, others are of the Netflix variety, betraying a loyal customer base to become the anti-Christ in your category practically overnight.

How weird can it get? Well, I just recently was in Delaware–and then in New York City later that same day–which provided a stark contrast in getting it really wrong, and getting it right.


So what was Delaware’s major misstep? Timing. Timing is one of those invisible components of branding that is, at a glance, out of sight. Until it’s done wrong, in which case, it’s the only thing you notice, distracting each of us from any other part of the branding. Like a gorgeous red carpet outfit accompanied by a hairpiece that is so awful that any beauty of the outfit is ignored and supplanted by the horrible hairpiece.

So, plan the timing of your “creativity” well. And, once scheduled, execute it even better.



Recipient of over 320 national and international design and branding recognitions and awards, David Brier is an award-winning brand identity specialist, package designer and branding expert. His firm’s work can be regularly found in blogs, publications and award annuals. David is also the author of Defying Gravity and Rising Above the Noise. David’s series of videos shed new light on real branding in these short TV interviews. David’s latest video entitled “Branding and the Power of the Consumer” has received rave reviews. You can also request your own copy of David’s free eBook, “The Lucky Brand” here.

[Image: © Regien Paassen |]



About the author

Brand identity expert, veteran designer, author, speaker and Fast Company expert blogger. He’s been written about in, INC and Fortune Small Business.