Importance of successful destination branding – interview with Bjørn Frode Moen
It is always best to learn from best examples, isn’t it? Therefore, we would like to introduce Bjørn Frode Moen to you - coordinator of Notodden Municipality (Norway), which is a lead partner of the TiF project. Our guest kindly agreed to answer to few of our questions, tell us how best practise of Norway and other countries, which could be implemented in your town, as well as the importance of ambient branding of destinations.
1. How did you get involved in the IC Network? How do you feel working for TIF project and IC Network?
The IC Network was established as a result of the INTERREG IIIB project ”Innovation Circle”. Notodden was partner in that project, and thus in the network from the very start. Trans in Form is also a child of the network as many of the partners have been with us from Innovation Circle.
Today the IC Network is important for the dissemination of TiF, and of course an arena for developing new projects with reliable old and new friends. Good relations are important when implementing projects and the IC Network have members you can trust.
2. Tell us about your city, what makes it special? Which are your favorite places in town?
Notodden is a small city, more a town, and even a young one established in 1913. It was based on available water power combined with smart heads and international funding. Notodden was the cradle of industrialization in Norway. This make the city special as a lot of the traditional industries based on energy no longer is there. On the other hand, the industrial heritage is also industrial know-how and in the last 30 years a lot of small and medium sized businesses are established, more on know-how then on energy. Recently Notodden was appointed the most attractive city in Telemark County as for trade and industry.
Our history made us special! My favorite places are the old industrial sites were new enterprises together with crafts and artists make an interesting mosaic. Our relation to Rjukan in Tinn municipality is also important as we these days together are working to be on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The old city center with shops and offices are struggling as the city center is moving towards the waterfront, and the big beautiful lake.
3. What is your opinion about city branding? Do you think that all cities should pay attention and try to have a branding strategy?
Branding is complicated as it can mean a lot of things. We might consider a city as a product, and use marketing strategies as if a city was Marlboro; however, it is hard to believe that a city ever could be a product in that sense. From research we know that it has no relevance as for getting more inhabitants. But branding might be interesting in perspective of the concept of ambient branding.
An ambient brand is a movement, where the brand is organized around values and social needs instead of promoting a specific product. It is a virtual space, defined by values and occupied by a community of like minded people. The brands develop organically as a result of emerging social and cultural codes and are materialized through people’s ability to organize around them. On our webpage we have tried that approach linking us to Notodden Blues Festival (Bluesbyen) The City of Blues as this event is what we are associated with when asking people outside Notodden and the festival is of great importance for our local community. The new social media are other examples were ambient branding are involved.
4. You often emphasize the importance of telling stories (when it comes to cities). What else is crucial in creating a successful brand strategy for a destination?
A brand, whatever branding strategy you use, must be trustworthy and a lot of the places including Notodden will never be a trustworthy destination alone! Thus we need another approach than the traditional branding of ourselves.
For some of the partners in the IC Network it might be more interesting to be branded as a Baltic Sea Region destination or a Niemen Region destination than a Polish destination or a Lithuanian destination. For Notodden it might be more interesting to be a destination in Scandinavia or in Norway more than a destination in Telemark? Norway is such a small country!
5. Which cities or countries could be good examples, in your opinion?
Tuscany is certainly a strong Italian brand, look up Tuscany on Wikipedia and you will see why! Bourgogne is in France a big and interesting region but very often branded together with their famous wine. A lot of people that are going there go for the Wine! I also think that Greece have succeeded to have people coming to their more remote areas by promoting the whole country. Some cities don’t need branding – they are the Brand – e.g. Paris, London and Singapore.
6. Anything you would like to add.