Internal Branding of a Region: participative approach


  • Lack of ambition
  • Lack of power
    Lack of image, no distinctive qualities of the region


  • Community building, profiling and branding of the region


  • Money, Ownership of the brand, history, culture and habits, lack of expertise in branding


  • Network Brand Strategy Handbook

Problems and challenges

When your region has a somewhat 'grey' or dull image and profile, but in fact has a lot of 'hidden' qualities;
When your region is characterised by numerous but rather 'small' players (relatively small municipalities, organisations and institutions, entrepreneurs, ...), but has a well developed network;
When your region lacks power and ambition; but withholds many believers in the region and in each other;
When your region has Unique Selling Points but lacks one common strategy or plan that describes its strengths to keep and weaknesses to counter....

Then a network of 'believers' can formulate a shortlist of spearheads, bundled in a Regional Strategy. This strategy is supported by a unique brand for the region (logo and baseline): it is meant to translate the values of the region to different target groups, starting with the inhabitants and visitors to the region.

Unlike big companies or cities that design a brand and dispose of big budgets for media campaigns, rural areas have to rely on their human capital (network) and on qualities inherent to the rural environment.


Having many hidden qualities in the region (landscape, ...) , and being able to rely on a wide network of supporting people and organisations, we chose to develop a regional strategy (10 spearheads) and a brand (logo and baseline).

Branding the region turned out to be the basis for a joint ambitious project, supported by many stakeholders. Defining the content of a brand is the first step and means that partners need to define the strengths and goals for the region, and that they have to support and contribute to this global strategy. It becomes a shared responsability.

The essence of the 'Network Brand Strategy' in this rural area is that EVERYBODY can use the regions brand: every organisation, institution, municipality, company, ... is invited to incorporate the brand in its own communication, via a co-branding system. A Brand Manual describes a few rules for brand users. The system is deliberately held very light and easily accessible anyone. Today more than 100 brand users are on the list.

The choice for a network strategy has an important implication on the required budgets: as EVERYBODY is free to incorporate the brand in its own communication, the financial costs are carried by many shoulders. Expensive campaigns are surely not a must, since countless small initiatives pop up.

A regional brand is not 'an easy solution' as such to give a boost to your area, but it is a process. The aims and success of the brand are based on commitment and partnership of many stakeholders, and require efforts to be continued for many years.

The goals of the brand strategy are: - profiling the region as a strong, dynamic region via the brand and a regional strategy for the future. - enhancing the regional identity and the feeling of 'belonging to' of the inhabitants - stimulating cooperation and entrepreneurship - developing a managing organisation (stimulating brand use, guarding brand rules)


Many barriers inhibit a classical brand approach: one brand user, spreading the brand via mass campaigns. The barriers below are typical for rural areas. The project tries to counter them via the 'Network Brand Strategy'. -Lack of clear, distinguished qualities (e.g. touristic top-attractions) compared to other regions and big cities: -> let all brand users reveal the 'small jewels' according to their view on the region -Lack of funds: lack of structural funds to invest in this joint project -> costs are spread via the system of multiple brand users -Lack of professionals to build a marketing and communication strategy (the network strategy results in many opinions and ideas of many partners) -> develop a bottom-up brand approach - Lack of ownership of the brand in a fragmented region (many small players in a non-hierarchic network) -> continuous efforts are required


-the 'Network Brand Strategy': EVERYBODY is asked to incorporate the brand in their communication: important stakeholders as well as are asked to use the brand. -a Brand Manual for several categories of brand users (via, Merkhandboek, in Dutch)

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