Well-managed brands have a centralised purpose. A unifying north star. An ethos that energises ambassadors justifies price premiums and create an enduring promise to its customers.
Look at anything successful product brand and you’ll find a clear purpose. It’s typically hidden beneath a few layers of communication, but dig around, and you’ll find it:
Nike: To bring innovation and inspiration to everything athlete. If you have a body, you’re an athlete.
Apple: To empower creative exploration and self-expression. You get the idea.
But what about the purpose of a place? It’s rare to come across a place purpose – even if you’re looking for one. And this could lead you to think that a purpose has no place in place making.
Placemaking – done well – involves the orchestration of a litany of stakeholders, long term site activation ideas, residential offers, retail curation and more. It needs a framework to navigate objective decision making within an incredibly lengthy and often subjective process. Before soil is even broken, the audience mix can be as complicated as Federal and State Government, private contractors, neighbouring residents, broader community stakeholders, local investors, foreign investors…and so on. Each has a crucial role to play in the successful execution of a project’s vision.
Without a powerful ‘why’, the process is rudderless. The end result can be financially disastrous. Even Australia’s most populated city, Sydney, is strewn with poorly executed examples of placemaking.
Places that relied too much on location or the built environment to ‘sell’. Much like product branding, this is the proverbial equivalent of relying on the ‘what’, not the ‘why’. The ‘what’ can be copied. It doesn’t create a unique positioning for a place in an increasingly competitive market.
Louis Khan once said, “Architecture is the thoughtful making of space.” We proffer that pertains to all manner of placemaking.
Investing in the process
Rome wasn’t built in a day. A place brand takes years of consistently applied associations, underpinned by a robust strategic process.
Any type of branding exercise begins as an intangible asset before translating into ROI. For placemaking, the ROI can be monumental. Not just for immediate investors, but for entire cities – even countries. The impact is far long-reaching and long-lasting. Placemaking is fast becoming a recognised economic force. Destinations put cities on the global stage. They attract tourists, talent and residents, and this, of course, translates to healthier economies. The global Travel and Tourism sector grew at 3.9% to contribute a record $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018. For the eighth consecutive year, this was above the growth rate of world GDP. (Source 1.) And the world’s population is only getting more mobile, putting places in fiercer competition with one another to attract and sustain a thriving community in the long term.
Our recent work with Sanctuary by Sekisui house Australia is a testament to the time and skill required to properly execute a place brand. A bold ambition, offering everything from world-class residential to retail to commercial amenities, the complexity of this project has required rigorous research, stakeholder engagement and clarity around future-focused topics such as sustainability and connectivity. The brand architecture stream of work alone accounted for the release of precincts for many years from now.
The brand essence we created for this project was inspired by site-specific history and environmental factors, as well as attitudinal insights spanning many target audiences. The purpose we landed on is steeped with relevance and truth – it’s something which will resonate for decades to come. We talk about the significance of uncovering a purpose for projects of scale – such as Sanctuary – however, any placemaking project warrants the due diligence, the time, to get the branding right.
Why? Places shape lives. A single address can create ripples around the globe if it stands for something powerful, unique and relevant. A purpose gives a place the anchor it needs to build market equity and desirability.
Our work on Trinity Point in Lake Macquarie ensured that it became a beacon of investor interest. We were involved in the project during what could only be described as one of Australia’s worst property recessions. When the perfect storm of political uncertainty was met with a declining pool of buyers and an increased release of OTP projects. In short, a time when an inherent brand value was more valuable than ever. When the ‘what’ – in this case, a waterside marina lifestyle - was simply not
enough to drive sales.
We undertook an intense research phase to uncover motivating insights that would appeal to the target demographic, and we crystallised a brand positioning that laddered back to a powerful ‘why’. By going through this critical process, we were able to elevate the project to something much more compelling than a development – we created a new way of living luxuriously. A dream for people to be part of.
The future of placemaking
As touched on, the fluidity of the earth’s population is only increasing. Improved and cheaper modes of global transport combined with the cultural forces behind the ‘experience economy’ are just some of the factors driving this. A new poll reveals that 15% of the global population – over 750 million people – would migrate if they could. (Source 2.) This gives place making a growing opportunity to attract dynamic communities from all across the globe.
On top of this, we live in an age of transparency with an increasing focus on brands to be accountable for the future well-being of people and the planet. These trends don’t escape place brands; if anything, because of the longevity and impact of placemaking, there is even greater responsibility for place brands to play a bigger societal role.
How we live today won’t look like how we live in 10 years. What will remain relevant, however, are peoples’ emotional drivers. We have every confidence that as places adapt to suit changing environmental, economic needs, the crossover into branding exercises will become a more critical part of the placemaking process. Thriving places will be increasingly built on purpose.
By implementing unique and innovative design thinking methods, Toast has developed interactive brochures for Sanctuary. We have utilised the latest drone technology to create a video with 360 panoramic views from multiple levels of this development. This can be viewed simply by just Scanning the QR code with your phone camera
Toast is an independent brand consultancy that specialises in large scale business transformation projects. Our capabilities include:
• Research & Insights
• Strategic Outputs
• Conceptual Framework
• Place Vision / Essence
• Brand Architecture & Hierarchy
• Concept & Mood Boards
• Project Specific Naming
• Strategy & Convention
• Brand Identity & Visualisation
• Brand Essence
• Brand Guidelines
About the Authors:
Nicholas Sammut is the founder and Managing Director of Toast Creative. With over 15 years of experience in digital and brand design, he combines strategic brand thinking with creativity to ultimately deliver strategically lead creative projects that create impact both online and offline.
At Toast, Nick has been responsible for managing the strategic direction of major brand programmes across the residential property development sector, government, lifestyle, professional services and hospitality. He offers expert knowledge in the provision of digital/user experience and property branding.
Toast Creative is an ideas agency. The team strives for briefs that inspire storytelling. The work has the hallmarks of collaboration, engagement and innovation in every campaign. Toast’s awards and recognitions are a testimony to Nick’s leadership abilities and his exemplary skills in building and navigating the right team to deliver every time.
Nick holds a Bachelor of Design from Swinburne University of Technology.
Emile Rastoll is Business Partner and General Manager of Toast Creative. With over 20 year’s of international (Europe and APAC) digital and brand design experience within both the B2B and B2C sectors, Emile combines strategic brand thinking with creativity to ultimately deliver strategically lead creative projects that create impact both online and offline.
Emile's strong background in brand engagement, business transformation as well as digital and social media strategy has led to him becoming General Manager and Strategist for Toast. This success is an attribute of his vision and passion for marketing, communications, digital consumer engagement.
At Toast, Emile is responsible for managing the strategic direction of major brand programmes across the residential property development sector, government, lifestyle, professional services and hospitality. He offers expert knowledge in the provision of digital/user experience and property branding.