Interview with Andy Levine – Economic Development and Place Branding Expert
Andy Levine is President and Chief Creative Officer of Development Counsellors International. I first met Andy at the International Economic Development Council 2008 annual meeting in Atlanta. He attended a plenary session where I presented the Three Moments of Truth model that I had developed. We had a great conversation following the presentation and I got the distinct impression that Andy really "got" the concept of place branding. I thought it would be great to reconnect with Andy before the 2009 IEDC meeting being held in Reno, and get his thoughts on a number of important economic development questions. After reading the interview, I am convinced you will agree that Andy has a point-of-view worth seeking out.
- Question: Based on your experience, what are the 2 – 3 things that most often cause place branding efforts to fail?
Gee, such a positive question to start with. Here are my top three failure elements:
1. Getting caught in the logo quagmire…Highlighted by endless reworking of graphics and developing a snappy slogan. This is not an unimportant element. But it is really only a small piece of the puzzle.
2. Lost in the sea of sameness….Failure to truly identify and concisely communicate what makes your community different from your competitors.
3. Ignoring the external customer…Focusing on "What will the Mayor think of this?" or "How will my board chair react?" rather than what will my target audience think.
- Question: Are incentives a healthy or hurtful practice in economic development?
Every single company executive and consultant that I’ve ever discussed the topic of incentives with has emphasized the relatively minor role that they play in a company’s location decision.
Would it be a positive development if they were to be eliminated? YES! Is that likely to happen in my lifetime? NO!
- Question: How important is it to have professional guidance when developing a place branding effort for a community? What are the benefits of hiring a consultant to help versus a community doing it on their own?
As a consultant that has specialized in marketing places for a long time, I obviously have a special axe to grind here. But I’d argue that a credible outside perspective is critical in getting a place branding campaign right. An outsider with a detailed knowledge of the target audience as well as an understanding what has worked for other communities is a valuable asset.
- Question: You are a fan of the Three Moments of Truth model, what lessons do you think it provides to economic development professionals?
I like it because you’ve taken a difficult and challenging topic and boiled it down to three simple circles. And in my experience, too many economic developers are under investing in the third moment: "Winning the Reinvestment".
- Question: How important is it for communities to leverage digital in their media mix?
This is the $64,000 question. The reality is that right now the majority of company executives with site selection responsibilities (think 50+ year old males) have not embraced new media with the zeal of Generation Y.
But this of course is changing every day (particularly with knowledge industries). So welcoming the world of new media and incorporating this element into your marketing plan is pretty important.
I’ve been particularly taken with "Linked-In" which I believe offers enormous opportunities for economic development marketers.