“I am what I am,” said the famous cartoon sailor. You have to admire an awkward, skinny guy who is as comfortable with himself as Popeye. It’s a terrific message and great advice for people and places.
Destination branding is all about discovering what your community has to offer, what its strengths are, and what makes it unique and desirable to visitors. To be successful a brand must be based on what a community IS not what it WANTS TO BE. I assure you, this is not an easy concept for civic leaders, who are naturally proud of their community, to accept. It's a natural inclination for community leaders, which sometimes includes DMO officials, to think that making a slightly exaggerated claim will help make the destination arrive at its objective faster. It's not true and it's a risky strategy.
If a community has a long-range plan to transform itself into something different, I say best wishes and work diligently to achieve it. For example, maybe a community wants to build sports facilties with the goal of being a leader in youth tournaments, or desires to build a museum and gallery space with goal of being a hotbed of artistic talent. Worthy goals that require long-term vision and perhaps a decade to accomplish. Re-visit the branding strategy when you've reached your goal, because branding yourself now as something you're not (but hope to be) is asking for trouble. It's like telling a lie to every potential visitor. When visitors arrive and find nothing remotely close to what was promised, they will go away disappointed. Today no one keeps their dissatisfaction to themselves. Mr. and Mrs. angry traveler will be on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and every other outlet telling the world about their frustration.
Note: You can find a few case studies online of destinations or attractions that we have helped to formulate a powerful brand strategy based on a truthful assessment of each one's strengths and personality.