Most marketing knowledge has been built around products and services. Place marketing has been somewhat of an intellectual orphan. Retailer can learn from place marketing principles because shops are places too.
Place marketing an approach that we call ‘Authentic Marketing’. It is not about labels or buzzwords, but a simple statement of philosophy.
Authenticity is about creating experiences that are real and honest (not cynical). It is about people…and community, and it is about what they value… not what just they buy.
The diagram identifies the four key components of the marketing function and demonstrates that it revolves around the customer experience. For this approach to work, two critical preconditions must be met:
Firstly, the entire corporate system must believe in the customisation of the customer experience. From research methodology, to concept; through development and delivery of the operational asset; all efforts are focussed on creating a unique place. A place that responds uniquely to that particular community.
Secondly, the organisation must have the vision to embrace the importance and validity of social and environmental returns as much as economic returns. That is the only way to create truly sustainable returns.
This positioning exercise is heavily reliant on research and a deep knowledge of the market. The place must occupy unique positioning, maybe as an edgy place – which is then supported by the product offer which is then finely balanced to deliver that unique experience.
This particular marketing function is often perceived as the only job a marketer must do – to drive visitation and then consequently retail sales. Marketers often submit to that pressure by simply (and exclusively) organising events and promotions. It is understandable, because there are easily measurable KPIs that demonstrate the short-term effectiveness of a specific promotion.
Place Management (interaction)
Making a ‘place’ come alive is a particularly challenging function. You can’t ‘buy’ a vibe with a few events. The term ‘place management’ as applied to shopping places captures the essence of what we strive for. This is the function where people demand authenticity. They won’t create lively spaces if the place does not resonate very clearly and closely with what the customers want.
It must become a space that has real community value that transcends the programmed elements that are designed to activate the space. How the community uses that space is constantly evolving and it takes real marketing nous to manage that evolution.
The final piece of the marketing puzzle is about connecting with the community. This is about people as community members as opposed to people as consumers. Community Engagement is about loyalty and retention and you should track and measure commitment levels as a key indicator; but it is more importantly about creating an environment that is rich in social capital.