Wednesday, 12 December 2012

4th Destination Branding and Marketing Conference

Last Friday I came home from three very stimulating days at the fourth international Destination
Branding and Marketing Conference, held in Cardiff and organised by the indefatigable Nigel Morgan and Annette Pritchard from the Welsh Centre for Tourism Research at Cardiff Metropolitan University. A really great conference programme drew a global audience of more than one hundred practitioners and academic researchers. The presentations were organised under a number of specific themes - use of digital and social media, consumer relationships and experiences, city and regional brands, and storytelling narrative and places.

With seventy four presentations on the menu it was impossible to take in all of the rich variety and depth of thinking that was available. For me the highlights were:

  • Jose Fernandez-Cavia on how to analyse destination web sites and Ana Maria Munger on ways in which tourists can contribute to destination development through social media.
  • Tom Buncle from Yellow Railroad on the case for branding destinations in the digital era and how to effectively harness digital technologies.
  • Frederic Bouchon on the challenges of place and destination branding in Malaysia (which deservedly won the conference prize for Best Paper).
  • Mihalis Karavatis from the University of Leicester on the dynamics of destination branding, particularly the associations that condition identity.
  • Nils Frederick Lund on the power of storytelling, specifically using the Holywood scriptwriting formula, using a case study of Vilnius.
  • Jon Munro on his work on developing branded content for VisitWales.
  • Sofie Flensburg and Israel Ubeda on the work of Visit Sweden promoting the country in Spain and the success and consequences of an innovative Twitter campaign.
  • Jose Torres of Bloom Consulting on his work in Brazil developing a brand strategy for a new city devoted to the fashion sector.

The final session of the conference was an open forum chaired by Nigel on what should be the future focus and format of the conference. Among the ideas suggested were three which caught my imagination - case studies on failing places that were attempting to turn themselves around through place brand strategy, presentations by combinations of researchers and practitioners and challenged presentations where presenters would be challenged live by a questioner presenter.

Copies of the papers given at the conference will be available shortly at

And videos of the keynote speaker's presentations, including mine, can be found at

My own keynote paper on "Experience Masterplaning" for Destinations is available at

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

London's Skyeline - Iconicity or Prickly Hedgehog

Image by Nick Brown, courtesy of Observer/Guaradian Newspapers

Every now and again Rowan Moore, the London Observer newspaper's architecture critic, writes a stormer of an article.

Last Sunday his latest blast was on "Towering and Infernal: London's New Blight". This was not an anti-tower polemic; it was more of a concern for the way that  the skyline of the city is being ruined by the poor quality of the design of an increasing number of tall buildings that are being constructed in and around the city centre and their lack of relationship to their surroundings and their scant regard for placemaking, especially at and around their ground floors. 

Moore laments the rush for height of the current and previous mayors of London, respectively Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, and the scant regard the central London Borough's seem to be taking to their own planning policies and local masterplanning guidelines as criteria for the design and massing of new tower proposals.

Moore is right on the money when he indicates that the recent rash of poorly designed towers are certainly not creating an iconic city or "iconcity" as he terms it and for me its more likely that what we are going to see is something more resembling a prickly hedgehog but one that lacks the elegance of a natural one.