What’s more important – towns, cities & villages… or regions?

Does anybody know what region London, New York, Paris or Sydney are in?  Does anyone care?   The same goes for San Tropez, Santorini and Timbuktu.

So why – in South Africa – do we make such a big deal of region and route marketing, often with names which are unknown brands?  Is it because our destination marketing is dominated by local government politicians and bureaucrats?  And they don’t appreciate the fundamental imperative of all marketing: “It’s not what you want to say, it’s what your customer wants to hear.”

There are examples of strong route and regional brands, but none of them were created by bureaucrats.  For example, the Stellenbosch Wine Route – where a group of product owners banded together to reinforce their offering… using and enhancing the strong Stellenbosch brand.  And there’s the Garden Route, Swartberg and Waterberg, but those have existed as brands long before any destination marketing came into play.

Cities, towns and villages are the ultimate (and very competitive) brands.  Anything that dilutes these as brands damages destination marketing.

As an example, take the relatively new Whale Coast Route being marketed by Overstrand Municipality.  Wouldn’t they get more bang for their buck by rather boosting their already-recognised brands?  What’s it going to cost to elevate Whale Coast Route to the same level of regional, national and global recognition as Hermanus and Gansbaai?  The bottom line is… Overstrand can’t afford it.

To make matters worse, most visitors to this area visit when there isn’t a whale in sight!  Is this a brand promise that can’t be met for most visitors?

As municipalities around South Africa try to up their role in destination marketing, the nonsense grows worse.  Municipalities usually embrace several towns and, because each doesn’t want the other to have dominance, new and meaningless brands are being created.  Does the West Coast Peninsula mean anything to you?  (I bet Paternoster, Langebaan and Saldanha do!)  This epitomises bureaucrats’ need for political solutions, aligned to political structures, rather than marketing solutions.

In Gauteng it’s particularly confusing since many accommodation establishments in Ekuhuleni (East Rand) still claim to be part of Johannesburg.  And in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth and East London mean much more than Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City.

Please vote in the poll below.

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