Place Branding Consultant Short List


I give presentations across the U.S. on the use of place branding as a strategy for economic development.  There is a great interest within the profession about how to differentiate communities for the purpose of both capital and skilled labor attraction.  There is also a lot of confusion and misinformation about what branding is and how it can help.

After I present the local leadership sometimes asks me if I would consider engaging in a branding project for their community.  Unfortunately, the answer has to be no because I have found project work limits my ability to focus on supporting the website and other educational endeavors (like speaking) that can have a broader impact on improving branding mastery within our profession.

So, instead of a flat “No”, I have compiled a short list of consultants that do project work and I believe have a good handle on effective place branding.  I believe these consultants would be worth including in any RFP solicitation you might do regarding better branding of your community, region or state.

Clearly, this short list does not represent a comprehensive listing of consultants who do good work in this area.  It is simply a list of those I have been following and feel personally comfortable saying they do good work.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no current contractual relationship with any of these consultants.  But, I have either worked with or had meaningful conversations with each.  And it is those experiences that have informed my judgment.


Bill Baker – President of Total Destination Marketing.  Bill is recognized internationally for his work in branding countries, cities and regions.  He has over 30 years in the business.  Bill is the author of Destination Branding For Small Cities.  I had an opportunity to review the second edition prior to publication. At a minimum, check out the free resources Bill provides the profession.

Jim Glover – President of Once a Day Marketing .  Jim is also known as “That Branding Guy”.  One of the coolest things Jim shares is his video series with practical advice on branding.  Jim also does both online and onsite consulting.  Jim has been in the business for over 25 years and has a wealth of knowledge to draw upon.  I recently had an opportunity to speak at a Rural Economic Development event in New Mexico that Jim helped organize and run.

Andy Levine – President of Development Counsellors International (DCI).  Andy has been in the business for over 22 years and serves on the Board of Directors for the IEDC.  DCI has done projects for a broad range of countries, states, regions, cities and communities.  I have known Andy since 2005 and have had the opportunity to provide him my perspective on a couple of DCI projects.

Jim Walton – Jim is President of Brand Acceleration.  He is also called the “Brand Coach”.  Jim has over 20 years in the world of branding.  He authors an e-zine entitled “Rants from the Brand Coach”  that is well worth reading.  Jim is a frequent presenter at industry meetings.  I had the opportunity to meet Jim and discuss community branding principles when I participated as a panelist in a discussion he led at an IEDC annual meeting.


I am hoping this feels like help.  If it is indeed helpful, then I will be happy to periodically add to the list as I uncover more consultants that do work I respect.  Who would you add to the short list?  If you have had a great experience with a community branding consultant and want to provide a shout out, please leave a comment sharing your experience and include a link to their website.  Or, if you have experience with any on my short list and want to share, please do so.  Good work should be recognized and by sharing you will help strengthen Brand America by improving the quality of place branding across our nation.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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27 Comments so far

  1. […]   […]

  2. James Glover

    August 19, 2013

    Ed, thanks so much for placing all of us on your short list. Place branding is so important today and every community should be developing its unique brand to attract new residents, businesses and visitors. All the best with your Strengthening Brand America efforts and thanks too for keynoting the 2013 Rural Forum in New Mexico.

  3. John Hope -Johnstone

    August 19, 2013

    I am so glad to see Bill Baker top of your list. I have known Bill for many years and seen his work with many cities to rave reviews. Creating a brand is a very difficult task but Bill is truly an expert in the field.

  4. Jim Walton

    August 19, 2013

    Thanks so much for the very kind mention, Ed. I’m honored to receive your recommendation and to call you my friend. I look forward to seeing you in October at the next IEDC Convention.

    Best regards,

    Jim Walton, “The Brand Coach”

  5. Bill Baker

    August 19, 2013

    Ed, many thanks for including us in this group of esteemed individuals and firms. We are a small team and we’re very passionate about helping places of all sizes improve their marketing performance. I can’t tell you how much this accolade puts an added spring in our step. We admire the role you are playing in advancing the science and discipline of place branding worldwide. We are very honored to be associated with the transformational work you are doing. Thank you.

  6. Daryl Hudson

    August 19, 2013

    Ed, that’s a solid line up of practitioners in this field. I have personally known and have worked with Bill Baker over the past 20+ years and absolutely delighted to see him on your short list. Could not agree more.

  7. Bill Geist

    August 19, 2013

    I’ve had the pleasure to work with Bill Baker on a few of his North American projects…and I concur, Ed. Bill’s process is top rate and he engenders great engagement from the communities with which he works.

  8. Bruce Dickson

    August 19, 2013

    Having observed Bill Baker’s work for many years, it is great to see this recognition for his proven dedication to achieving outstanding community branding results for so many cities and places, both here around the US and internationally.

  9. Marla Johnson Norris

    August 19, 2013

    I’ve worked with Bill Baker and read his book. He’s a class act and the book is a valuable, quick read. Bill Baker is thoughtful and committed to getting positive, meaningful results for his clients (as we are at, so it’s a great recommendation. In a week, I can share a white paper Bill and I did together that you may find interesting — place branding for small destinations in a digital world. Stand by!

  10. Tim Morgan

    August 19, 2013

    I have known Bill for 10+ years. When I served as State Tourism Director in Delaware, I chose Bill to be the keynote speaker at the Delaware Governor’s Tourism Conference because he is the top tourism branding expert. I have learned a great deal from Bill and he deserves the recognition and accolades.

  11. Erik Wolf

    August 20, 2013

    Delighted to see Bill’s name on the list. Bill’s a low-key guy who delivers high quality information and advice to our industry. Just look at his Destination Branding for Small Cities book – it’s a classic.

  12. Marcus Osborne

    August 20, 2013

    I’m a bit surprised not to see my name on the list but I have to say (whilst choking back the tears) that I have seen Bill Baker in action at a conference in Macau and was privileged to contribute some content on Asia to his recent book.

    I’ve also read his book and what I find so compelling about Bill’s approach is that he understands that the heavy lifting is done before the glamourous stuff starts and that without stakeholders knowing, understanding and benefitting from what a place brand represents, it will never fly, let alone stay airborne.

  13. Peter Nizette

    August 20, 2013

    I’ve known Bill for coming on 25 years …before his sea changing ‘Shrimp-on-the-barbie’ – when he was a destination marketing high flyer for the Australian Tourism Commission.

    He understands that ‘…marketing starts with the product’ …remember the, original, 4Ps? There are not many in DMCs who do understand but ALL NEED to! In fact …in my experience – not many marketers REALLY remember to go back to basics and logic …and, simplistically, and ad nauseum trawl around the trade fairs and commission advertising – then wonder why they are running out of budget without the results!

    Bill gets the notion that branding (emotional attachment -NOT pretty logos) is an integral and fundamental component of the product and that, if used ‘right’, can ‘drive’ all marketing related to a small destination. I am talking not only hospitality – but also dairy and veggie producers, taxi drivers, bakers and butchers … etc….all part of the product, the destination ‘community’ – the experience – that so stays in visitors heads.

    IF the city ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ understand this …or want to understand it better – Bill’s the bloke! Get him – and then get his books – as an enduring reference.

  14. Todd Mayfield

    August 20, 2013

    Bill Baker is one of those people you can’t help but like the moment you hear him speak. His warm communication skills laced with his infectious Aussie accent makes his knowledgable delivery very palatable and easy to understand.

    Of the many brand experts I have worked with over the years, Bill is one of those guys who elevates my craft to a balanced art form.

    His passion for excellence, high aim and focus on delivering the best results for his clients has earned my respect and encourages me to remain excited about destination branding.

    There are a lot of great salesmen who peddle mediocrity and often leave communities holding an empty bag. Bill is the real deal. He proves that destination branding is a viable investment with a measurable return.

  15. Reyn Bowman

    August 20, 2013

    Delighted to see Bill Baker on this list. He understands that you don’t create a brand, you distill its essence from almost temporal values and traits. He also has a strong BS-O-Meter and isn’t afraid to safeguard a process from bullies.

  16. Wendy Hielsberg

    August 20, 2013

    I have had the pleasure of working with Bill Baker as he successfully helped steer an entire new brand for our mid sized community.

    Bill was passionate, knowledgeable and flexible as he facilitated our new brand.

    Once our brand was launched, Bill continued to follow up with me – always offering advice and help along the way.

    We have learned a great deal about branding a destination from this experience and I was thankful to have Bill leading the charge.

  17. Andy Levine

    August 20, 2013

    I appreciate the recognition and your kind words.

    Your query asked: “Who would you add to the short list?” I’d suggest Ed Burghard — given your unique perspective from many years at Proctor & Gamble followed by your success marketing the state of Ohio.

  18. John Cooper

    August 20, 2013

    Well it appears the comment section has turned into the Bill Baker Fan Club. Having worked with Bill in two destinations I can see why! he does good work. Period. Good choices Ed.

  19. Jeffrey King

    August 20, 2013

    We had the pleasure of using Bill Baker for our City of 20,000+ here in Oregon. he is both professional and passionate.

    Bill takes a very thorough approach. He drills deep to get a 360 degree range of feedback and input from stakeholder, community leaders, competitor communities and a peer network he has around the world thus insuring a very relevant and useful product.

    He provided a complete package -so much more than just a logo.

    We continue to use his guidebook of ideas to this day as we work to implement his branding framework.

    Bill is a real asset to this field and to our community.

  20. Eric Aebi

    August 20, 2013

    I’ll add to the list of people cheering Bill Baker’s inclusion on your list. As an educator, I use Bill’s book in the classroom because it is pragmatic and reflects the reality that most future tourism practitioners will face: small towns with limited resources.

    I have also worked with Bill on projects in our State. I can say without a doubt that his return-on-investment is exponentially higher for a community than that delivered by a PR or marketing firm. SO many communities mistake slick graphics or trendy events for place branding. Bill and his team leave a blueprint founded on the true assets of the community that enables ongoing tourism promotion and communications that amplify the brand values of the town to drive stronger recognition and deeper guest experiences.

    That is the DNA of a sustainable, authentic brand. Expensive logos are not.

  21. Sharon Alford

    August 20, 2013

    I had the utmost privilege of working with Bill and his team to establish a brand for our community. Bill guided the community through an insightful journey that opened the eyes of lifetime residents to new and previously unidentified possibilities already here. HIs team consists of passionate professionals who will go the “extra mile” to not only deliver a truly unique brand for your area, but to share their knowledge and experience to guarantee you have the tools and knowledge necessary to implement the brand.

    My only disappointment of the entire process is that it eventually had to come to an end. Fortunately, I have found out that Bill continues to offer his friendship and support to assure our ultimate success. Not only did I get a great new brand, I got several new friends!

  22. Rollie Cole

    August 20, 2013

    A list like this is a great step forward, so long as people realize that branding is the ultimate nail soup exercise. That is, a great consultant helps get the community engaged and helps the community make use of the knowledge and other resources it, not just the consultant, has available. No matter how good the consultant, if the community does not participate, much (if not all) of the value may be lost.
    As we have discussed before, branding is also the ultimate in activities where the journey can be (and usually is) much more important than the destination. Here again, perhaps the best role for any “logo” and “slogan” that emerge is not what those evoke in the minds of outsiders, but what they recall in the minds of community members. You do want a message to those outside the community, but you also want a message to community members.
    With those understandings, which a good consultant will help you reach, I join Ed in thinking that “place branding” can be a great use of resources.
    Rollie Cole, PhD, JD
    Founder, Fertile Ground for Startups, Small Firms, and Nonprofits
    “Think Small to Grow Big”

  23. Keith Dinnie

    August 21, 2013

    Bill Baker absolutely deserves to be on this shortlist. My first encounter with him was a few years ago when we were both delivering keynote speeches at a place branding event in Lisbon, Portugal. On that occasion I was hugely impressed not only by his expertise but also by his friendly down-to-earth manner which is so engaging and supportive. Any destination would be lucky to have him on board.

  24. Anne Jenkins

    August 26, 2013

    Bill Baker was absolutely wonderful to work with. He makes the destination branding process amazingly easy. Bill takes branding to a different level. He knows it so well, he lives and breathes it and it shows his passion and love for destinations and their success.

  25. Paul

    September 6, 2013

    I’d like to recommend Shirar O’Conner and The Pont Group. Shirar and her staff have all worked in economic development and understand the challenges EDO face better than most organizations. Come see Shirar at IEDC

  26. […] Walton is one of the people I include on my short list of consultants who get it and can be trusted to add value for their fee.  Jim recently authored a post entitled “5 […]

  27. Wbrcorp

    October 13, 2018

    Your article is very informative. It’s a welcome change from other supposed informational content. Your points are unique and original in my opinion. I agree with many of your points.

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