Place Branding – The Story of Regina, Canada

Ed Burghard

“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”

Mary Catherine Bateson

One of the things I absolutely love is when readers send me resources to consider adding to the Strengthening Brand America website.  I love it because that is the type of thing professional communities of practice do, they share knowledge with each other to help “raise the tide for all boats”.



Jeanette Hanna, VP of Brand Strategy for Trajectory sent me a link to an excellent case study documenting Regina, Canada’s branding journey.  I want to give both Jeanette and the Team at Trajectory my special thanks for their proactive sharing of educational material.  To demonstrate your appreciation, please visit the Trajectory  website and learn more about the company.

Download Case Study

Several Highlights From The Story

The story has so many important learning points for every economic development professional interested in better branding their community, region or state.  Here are just a couple points I want to draw your attention to.

A brand is not a logo and tagline.  In 1999, the Mayor of Regina commissioned an effort to work on the “image” of the city.  The result was a new logo.  But, the logo failed to deliver the results community leaders were seeking.  I am partial to this learning because over and over again I see communities talk about investing in branding only to end up with an expensive logo and tagline.  When the new visual fails to deliver measurable results, the false conclusion if often branding doesn’t work.  In reality, the community never really engaged in a branding exercise.  Logo design work is great for creating a visual that helps bring a community’s brand promise to life in a compelling, shorthand way.  But remember, a brand is a promise.  It sets an expectation of an experience.

Branding is a strategic exercise to ensure the promise remains relevant, competitive and is authentically delivered at key touch points now and in the future.  A logo is simply one visual device used to help communicate the community’s brand promise.  It took 7-years before the Regina Council realized this and commissioned a robust place branding initiative.

A dedicated professional with proven brand building skills should manage the branding work.  The first thing Regina did to resource the branding exercise was hire a Brand Manager.  Kudos to the Regina leadership, not only did they recognize that brand building requires a specialized skill set, they sent a strong signal to the community that Regina was serious about delivering a positive outcome.  If you work in a community that can’t afford to hire a full time Brand Manager, then “rent” one by hiring a consultant with a proven track record of delivering quality branding results.  If you need a place to start, take a look at my current short list of place branding consultants I feel really “get it”.  And, in appreciation for their sharing the case study, consider adding Trajectory to your RFP solicitation.

Community involvement is critical to a successful branding process.  The community provides input and insight.  But, at the end of the day the Brand Manager makes and defends a data based recommendation on what the community brand promise should be.  Brand promises designed by committee rarely are effective.  Making a promise means making a choice and committee created brand promises tend to cater to the least common denominator so the promise doesn’t upset any constituency.  However, such a designed promise also typically fails to excite anybody.  If you can’t excite your residents and targets, then you won’t create a memorable brand.


I really liked the overall conclusion of the paper.

“With increasing globalized competition to attract investment, talent, tourism, nations, and regions, municipalities are striving to differentiate themselves.  Differentiation and a strong value proposition for investment start with a solid place-brand.”

“By listening to citizens and engaging members from their target audience in different cities across the country, they were able to discover and articulate their identity and also address the objections to their city.”

If your community wants to engage in a branding exercise, my best advice is to strive to do it right the first time.  Do not invest in the creation of a logo and tagline with an expectation that it will improve your community image.  It won’t.  If you want to test this assertion, start by taking your current logo and mask your community name.  Include it in a group of five others.  Now share all six with both your residents and target audience to determine if they can recognize your community logo.  Chances are they won’t.  If your logo isn’t even recognized, then it certainly isn’t hurting your community image.  Granted it is not helping it either, but that is not a valid reason to short cut a robust branding exercise.  Invest in doing the branding exercise right the first time. so you won’t have to explain why the strategy failed to accelerate economic development in your community.  Otherwise, what you are really saying to your community leadership is that you believe a new logo and tagline is going to dramatically improve your community’s competitiveness.  Good luck with that.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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