With globalization at an all-time and ever-increasing high, the movement of people, businesses, capital, and ideas is more fluid than ever. People are always on the go, but how and why do they choose to go to one place over another? While there’s no simple answer to this question, it’s safe to say that people’s expectations of what a place will be like when they get there plays a major role in their decision-making process. For developing locations in need of attracting people, the competition is stiffer than ever. That’s where the importance of place branding comes in.

In short, place branding or destination branding is how a location communicates its image to its target market. From entire continents to the smallest city blocks, place branding influences how the rest of the world perceives a place. A great brand is important whether you’re trying to attract visitors and tourists or encourage people to become permanent residents. What makes this place unique? What kind of people live there? What can you do there? Why should you visit? Why should you stay? A well-thought-out brand addresses all of these questions and captures a place’s spirit and personality.


The I ♥ NY campaign is a great example of old-school place branding. That brand has held from the 1970s until today and into the foreseeable future. The state even makes money from the logo, as Empire State Development, New York state’s chief economic development agency, owns and licenses the trademark for merchandise, to the tune of some $30 million a year.

The “Virginia is for Lovers” advertising motto was created 50 years ago by the Richmond advertising firm now known as the Martin Agency. It debuted in 1969 issue of “Modern Bride” and was inducted into Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame in 2009. No one knows exactly why it has been so durable – perhaps because it is mysterious and has meant many things to different people.

It was decided that the acronym RVA was a simple, catchy way to encapsulate the city as a whole. It was already being used by Richmonders, so Richmonders helped create it. They “took the concept of RVA and decided that something simple like a sticker might be an effective way for Richmonders to brand the city themselves.” Today, this acronym has its roots in the community. It is highly recognizable and represents the changes that Richmond has undergone in the last few decades.


When it comes to branding residential areas, the target market becomes smaller and more specific. For example, a new neighborhood in the suburbs full of single-family homes appeals to a different crowd than the newly-renovated, one-bedroom loft apartments in a hip area of a college town. Your brand should be something distinct and recognizable that appeals to the demographic you are trying to attract; a place they’ll want to come home to.

Residents shouldn’t just be proud of their homes, but of their community in its entirety. What makes them proud to be a part of that neighborhood, or excited to invite friends over to their new apartment? What’s different or special about your product offering that’s going to speak to the type of people you want to reach? Whether it’s a new neighborhood under construction or an existing location, a community’s brand should reflect who they are and what they want to become.

For 18 years, River City Consulting has been helping businesses make money.  As a professional advertising and branding agency, we help companies determine realistic advertising budgets that produce results. Call us at 804-447-5757 for an appointment to talk about marketing your destination.

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