The importance of brands for MTB destinations
The days when mountain biking destinations were rarity are over. With increasing popularity of mountain biking the number of destinations that provide quality and similar trail infrastructure as well as accompanying services is increasing.
The answer lays in one of the most powerful tools that products, companies and destinations can use to attract consumers – branding. As destinations cannot be sampled or tested before like most of the other products, potential visitors are at risk, which they reduce through collection of a variety of information. In this process brands play important role, as they reveal hidden and intangible qualities of destination which consumers cannot see or feel and consequently reduce this risk and empower their decisions as they make promises and set expectations. At the same time brands also help consumers to easier and faster select certain destination out of a number of options.
Furthermore brands emphasize intangible and emotional attributes of destinations, enable them to create emotional connections with visitors and help them to differentiate from the competition and occupy unique position in the hearts and minds of visitors. Consequently brands cannot be copied. At the same time brands also help destinations to improve own features, attributes and unique elements and build loyalty.
What brand actually is?
Brands are often misunderstood as their visual elements and corporate identity. That is why we can compare them with iceberg, as most of the brand is hidden to our eyes as icebergs are. So if we dive in and take a look at what is hidden to our eyes, we can see that brand is much more than logo and slogan.
A powerful brand is not just a product but is much more than that and for this “more” customers gladly pay premium price. A brand is the space that a destination occupies in the minds and hearts of people and helps to align how it would like to be viewed with what people actually think about it.
Successful branding turns trail system into a place people dream about and where people want to live and ride. They do that through selecting a consistent brand element mix to identify and distinguish a destination through positive image.
If branding is so beneficial for destinations, why then not every destination has it?
Destination branding is in comparison with product or company branding a very complex process as it has a variety of stakeholders to please. Destination marketers have consequently little control over destination mix they are branding. It is also a long term process that does not only require time but also investments and commitment of all stakeholders. Destinations that are developing brands also have to deal with lack of resources and changing politics. Some destinations may be on the short term successful even without the development of brand and one may think that brands are waste of time and money. However on the long term these destinations remain well known, but became tired and quickly lose their attractiveness and desirability of the places worth visiting.
So why so many destinations fail to develop strong brand?
- Lack of understanding of brand and branding
- Non-strategic, organic approach
- Non- inclusion of all stakeholders
- Vision that does not link and motivate stakeholders
- Lack of understanding of target groups, their needs and desires, which is a consequence of lack of researches in that field
- Dis-application of models for brand and brand identity development
- Dis-application of performance monitoring
- Too much stress on tangible and functional attributes
- Unrealistic promises
- Lack of consistency
- Fail to follow trends
Fortunately we have some guidelines and models that we can follow to develop strong destination brand. Every destination branding process should start with market research that is followed by the development of strategy and brand identity; brand launch and introduction, brand implementation and performance monitoring, evaluation and review. This is continuous process that should be repeated again and again.
So if you want your place to become a desirable destination for mountain bikers and a dream trip of their lifetime, then you better develop a strong brand for your destination. But remember that strong brands never happen by accident.