The branding world is changing and its rules need to adapt to reflect it. Distinctiveness in a brand is important because it has to stand apart from the rest of the market.

But we have so much overlap in brands anymore, and what one brand does, claims or says reflects on you.

Case in point: Destination brands.

Cities, resorts, states, countries and various other sundry destinations ask for our brand advice regularly. Because they have been hurting longer than most in today’s economy.

We tell them to look for a brand space that is reflective of their target market, important to those it needs to influence and lays claim to the highest emotional intensity unavailable.

But some issues make it difficult to carve out a distinctive space in the minds of those seeking the experience of a destination brand. Primarily, the homogenization of locations.

In my travels, places like New Orleans, San Francisco, Mexico City, Dublin, London, Paris, Brussels, and even Beijing are all looking to own a place in the mind of the prospective visitor. But in all those places, there are, for example, the same retail offerings.

At each destination, it seems there is a Starbucks. A Target. You look around and wonder, “Am I in Seattle or London?” “Brussels or Beijing?” Even the experiences there are similar.

You get the idea. There was a time when most destinations had their own flavors. Now it is all basically the same.

las-vegas

Here’s what I’m arguing for: Without being able to change the retail environment, destinations need a brand message that takes advantage of the few differences they own that says something about who the traveler is when they visit there. Las Vegas, with its “What happens here, stays here” themeline, is a good example. (The brandface: I’ll do things in Vegas I never would admit.)

Considering the homogenization of most things, having a real brand is more important than ever. It’s the way destinations can emerge from their doldrums healthier than ever.