Principle Based Place Branding

Ed Head ShotWhen you can’t see any daylight between what you believe, what you practice, what you offer, and what you say about yourself.  You are doing what great brands do.

When I first got involved in economic development (2005), I wanted to understand how what I learned in my 33-years as a P&G marketer translated into the field of place branding.  To that end, I created the following list.  These are a few of the branding principles I picked up throughout my career.  Contrary to popular belief, there is not a list of guiding principles handed to you as a P&G marketer.  Although, that would be pretty cool if there were.  I also want to make it clear this particular list is by no means comprehensive.  The list is simply based on my personal observations and from listening to presentations made by my mentors who were some of the world’s best brand builders at P&G.

This list served as a good guide to see the connections between product/corporate branding and place branding.  It also confirmed that while the execution may be different in place branding, the principles remain constant.

P&G Principle: Everything begins and ends with the consumer – The consumer is boss.

Translation: Everything begins and ends with the community resident – The resident is boss.

P&G Principle: Consumers buy value.

Translation: Incentives are not a sustainable basis for successful differentiation, your community must be seen as a great place to live in, work in and do business from.

P&G Principle: Brands need continued product development to remain competitive.

Translation: Asset creation, infrastructure investment, public policy and public program decisions contribute to helping your community remain competitive.

P&G Principle: A brand includes the total experience a consumer has with the product or service.

Translation: The experience a person has with your community directly impacts their decision to live in, work in or do business from your location.

P&G Principle: Brand promise and performance must be congruent.

Translation: The experience people get in your community must support the promise you make about why it is a good place to live in, work in, or do business from.

P&G Principle: Great advertising is built around consumer insight.

Translation: Your community advertising needs to be built around a deep understanding of the wants/needs of your target audience (e.g. top talent, or executives making a capital investment decision).

P&G Principle: Branding is about winning both the mind and heart space.

Translation: Communities can compete on functional attributes, but will win by making an emotional connection.

P&G Principle: The only strategy that counts is the one the consumer sees.

Translation: Your community’s brand promise must guide tactical choices at all levels of economic development.

P&G Principle: Consistency of message and visualization drives brand recall.

Translation: Your community’s promotion should be consistent with its promise and not event driven.

P&G Principle: For long term success, build from strength.

Translation: Find the unique strengths of your community (e.g.s assets, labor pool skills) and leverage them in promotion.

P&G Principle: Brands that last forever are built on the foundation of a strong equity.

Translation: Your community needs to “own” and continually support a differentiated image.

P&G Principle: Marketing is an investment that builds profitable share.

Translation: Your community marketing needs to be sustained to be effective.


We followed these principles in branding the state of Ohio (from 2005 to 2011).  I can’t say it was always easy, but being able to explain to elected officials the principles underpinning the strategies and subsequent tactics we recommended was very helpful.  And, of course, my having been credentialed at P&G didn’t hurt.

We completed our brand promise work and got an initial campaign on air in late calendar 2005.  Behind the strength of that principle based branding effort and the exceptional work of local economic development professionals throughout the state, Ohio won the Site Selection Governors Cup in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 (for perspective, calendar 2010 was a Gubernatorial Administration transition year and the principle of sustaining your marketing investment experienced a challenge).

I retired from my role as the Ohio brand leader in 2011.  Ohio subsequently deprioritized branding and has not won the Site Selection Governors Cup award since.

I encourage you to consider applying the principles to your community branding efforts.  And, I hope they serve you as well as they served the state of Ohio.

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