First published Wednesday, May 28, 2014
In an interesting article featured on the WalesOnline website today (link at the base of this page), there has been a suggestion made by the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) that Wales should be marketed with the “landscapes on the front cover”. Elsewhere in the article, it is suggested by the Wales Tourism Alliance (WTA) that Wales still suffers from a perception that there “is not enough to do” and that a comprehensive overhaul of the marketing of the tourism offer here is needed.
There has been much discussion around the idea of a “Brand” for Wales, and undoubtedly there will continue to be so. It is incredibly difficult to formulate something that can do justice to everything the country has to offer to the visitor, as it is a very varied offering. From beaches to mountains, walks to waterways, castles to camping, abseiling to archery there is a vast amount of choice, and to convey that message in a few simple words, images or phrases is always going to be a challenge.
A strong brand not only serves to create an association with something for an individual person, it also provides something that others, at least within the tourism industry, can hang their own marketing from as well. It provides an easily identifiable presence and when customer loyalty is established adds to the return on investment made in developing the brand to begin with.
Here in Pembrokeshire, we have similar challenges to those faced by the team trying to define the brand for Wales. For many, Pembrokeshire conjures up pictures of beaches, coastal walks, and maybe a castle or two. However that is only part of what we have to offer here in the county. There are opportunities to go coasteering, kayaking, climbing, riding, meet exotic animals, feel the rush of adrenalin whilst on a roller coaster and much, much more.
Individual businesses spend time and money developing their own brand, and as a result there are many well known and recognised brands in the county. Many of these use the word Pembrokeshire in amongst their marketing copy, and whilst that raises the profile of the county when potential customers are searching for information, it doesn’t create a brand for the county. It may be that creating a brand for an area as diverse as Pembrokeshire, and indeed Wales, isn’t possible, at least not in the traditional sense. Maybe the rapid change and growth of digital marketing and the various platforms that provides means that there should be a number of brands created, each targeting specific market sectors.
What is important however is that messages are consistent. It’s no good putting up an image of a sun kissed beach whilst suggesting that there is plenty to do whatever the weather. Neither will portraying a romantic dinner for two sit well with an invitation for families to visit. When it comes to creating and maintaining a brand it is worth ensuring that it is something you, as the conveyor of that brand, feels confident in. You may be challenged on it, it may be questioned, but if you have confidence in it and believe that it appropriately and accurately represents your product or service then it will be far stronger than something you’ve been handed and asked to promote (something to bear in mind perhaps when recruiting staff – will they take ownership of your brand too?)
The Welsh Government and Visit Wales undoubtedly have a challenge on their hands when it comes to defining the brand for Wales, and making the country attractive to visitors from across the world. They also have to find a way to incorporate the views of those that live and work here, so they can take ownership of it and help to promote that brand message.