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Anatomy of a brand campaign

Today we talk to Kerstin Steglich and Christof Biggeleben from branding agency Ketchum Pleon. Our goal is to delve further into the details of their brand campaign for the Saxony region.

How did they make sure the campaign was people-focused? How did they address the needs of all the stakeholders? In what way was storytelling integrated into the campaign?

Placesbrands: How did you define the ‘unique selling point’ of Saxony?

Kerstin Steglich: For the Simply Saxony campaign we didn’t focus on a single highlight, particular aspects or services from Saxony – but instead we focused on an attitude. It is pragmatism, innovation and a doer mentality that has always made a Saxon.

This is precisely the attitude that we put in the centre of the campaign – and we tell exactly the stories that reflect this attitude. Simply Saxony may be interpreted individually by every inhabitant of Saxony. Thereby every Saxon can become a part of the campaign.

What differentiates Simply Saxony from other advertising campaigns?

Christof Biggeleben: On one hand, we deliberately kept the claim very open. It doesn’t postulate a classic brand promise but invites you to take part and try out. We entered into dialogue with the Saxons from the very beginning.

We added the stories of the people to the campaign and then engaged them in concrete terms (as an individual, via sports clubs, cultural institutions or companies). No other German federal state campaign has achieved this to the same extent.

Secondly, we started with the communication in Saxony itself. Effectively, that was agenda setting in the direction of the inhabitants.

Only after the campaign was approved by the Saxons, did we open it up to other parts of Germany and abroad. With this strategy, we have made sure that the campaign is supported by the people. Saxon artists and sportsmen are on the road as ambassadors of Saxony and the campaign. Saxon companies implement the campaign when marketing their products. And the claim has already become a dictum.

How would you define good place branding? Is it always about logos and slogans – or does it involve more?

CB: Logo and slogans are important, beyond doubt. The logo is almost a kind of visual identity card for a state. The slogans summarise the strengths of the state and put them in a nutshell. But a campaign must also be lived by the people, because they are a country. People, slogans, and logos must go hand in hand.

What role does storytelling play in a good place brand strategy?

CB: In the ‘Age of Digital’, storytelling plays the key role. We made our strategy more in line with the Brothers Grimm, their fairy tales and the nation-building processes from the 19th century than with the nation-branding textbooks. Stories, myths, and festivals led to a national consciousness and national identities in the 19th century across Europe.

In Germany, for example, the collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm was an eminently political process. They served as evidence of cultural unity of the Germans, in a country that was not politically unified. This shows the power of storytelling. People remember. And they continue to tell the stories.

Basically, we do the very same thing today with the campaign by giving the Saxons a stage for their stories. It’s still an ‘invention of tradition’ as the historian Eric Hobsbawm once said. Only today, this principle is stated in the sign of branding processes.

You mentioned that the Saxony brand is supported by ‘all of Saxony’. How did you manage to engage this wide and diverse range of stakeholders?

KS: The stage is again the keyword: we worked together with Saxon ambassadors, especially Saxon artists, presenting their state. For instance, we made a PR stunt on Times Square with the Thomaner Boys Choir from Leipzig. Some of the musicians of the famous Gewandhaus Orchestra played a spontaneous concert on the street in New York on the day exactly 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell.

Another example is the video artist Sebastian Linda, who brought his unique perspective on the state into a film. I think that again the issue of attitude and identification is in the foreground.

Because the Saxons identify strongly with their state and with the attitude the campaign is based on, they like to be on the road as ambassadors. Of course, with the campaign we have also offered a stage for artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs.

The video shows different scenarios, from urban to nature elements, and various cultural angles, including skateboarding, urban fashion, and a mosque. Who in particular are your key target audiences?

KS: The campaign doesn’t have one single target audience. As a classic location campaign it’s both thematic and broad in terms of the target groups. It uses the topics of business, innovation, education, art, culture … and therefore addresses investors, tourists, and professionals with tailored measures.

The aforementioned film by Sebastian Linda is primarily aimed at a young, creative target group in Germany and internationally. Here, the aim was to draw attention to Saxony as a state to visit, but perhaps also to study and to live.

After all, there was little knowledge of Saxony, there were few concrete images in the minds of the target audiences. Where knowledge is lacking, prejudices and stereotypes tend to enter in its place. Therefore, the film is intended to convey a modern, Saxon lifestyle.

According to a recent survey, 42% of Germans now know the brand Simply Saxony. Do you think this means they have actually formed a whole new set of associations around Saxony, or does it just signify that they are aware of the logo and slogan?

KS: In the best case scenario – both! We would wish for that. Therefore, a second survey last fall requested more details. Compared to 2011, there was a 20% increase in positive spontaneous associations (with landscape, landmarks and cities) in all German regions, but especially in the western provinces. We were particularly pleased by positive developments in tourism, industry and education.

In this period Saxony’s perception has increased by 29% due to the support of our campaign. However, there is still plenty of work to do because many West German workers cannot yet imagine a move to Saxony. Fortunately, this east-west difference is no longer an issue for young people, 25 years after reunification.

How did you leverage social media as part of the campaign? What value in general would you say social media has in helping to develop new associations with a place?

CB: Social media is the catalyst of good stories, especially when they break with the usual stereotypes, and when the story is told differently from what is expected. Actually, this is just as the filmmaker Sebastian Linda did with the project ‘Travel where you live’. We can reach international audiences via social media that we never would have reached with traditional TV spots in three to five destinations 15 years ago.

One can almost speak of a ‘digital nation-branding’, because photos of places and countries are transported much faster via social media. In the 19th century it was the principle of the world exhibition buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, which expressed the image of a country. Today, good YouTube clips can achieve this. Or one big film project, such as the Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand.

But we must also remember: a major event is still central, as the Football World Cup 2006 in Germany has shown. This is the perfect stage for the people of a country. And it has changed perceptions worldwide.

Does the Simply Saxony campaign tie into a long-term vision for the development of Saxony? 

CB: I would rather answer in general. At first, campaigns can only be icebreakers. You can correct distorted images such as in the case of Saxony, and break stereotypes. But then you need to add that special momentum. Does the campaign exactly hit the lifestyle and attitude of the people?

If place-branding campaigns succeed, the long-term strategy can only be people making the campaign into their campaign. Because they are the best ambassadors of their country. If that succeeds, then the campaign did a good job.

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