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Notoriously Branded


In memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Some public figures are larger than life. Their personal brands extend beyond their deeds. They are engrained in our culture. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a prolific impact on freedom and social justice long before being appointed to be the second female Supreme Court Justice. Even so, it was her 27 years of service on the high court that shaped how she was viewed by the nation. Her unwavering defense of equality inspired the creation of a social media account and subsequent book entitled “The Notorious RBG”

Notorious. It’s an odd word choice for describing anyone yet alone a Justice of the Supreme Court. But it fit her underlying brand promise that was built on standing up for her personal beliefs. In this manner, Justice Ginsberg took on the mantle borrowed from hip-hop superstar Christopher Wallace. Perhaps he’s better known as Biggie Smalls or even more commonly as The Notorious B.I.G.

Two cultural icons, one that rhymed about drugs, guns, and police mistreatment. The other that worked tirelessly to protect his right to do so. Yet they were connected by more than being from Brooklyn or being labeled as “Notorious”. They embodied an assured comfort with knowing who they were, what they stood for and never wavered from defending their personal views. Their legacy and profound impact on millions of lives lives on.

So how does this apply to your destination?

Notorious RBG is a mindset. A promise. It is the embodiment of her personal brand; conceived by a law student to project the Justice’s view of truth and her consistent adherence to defend it. Justice Ginsberg did not create this brand, but she did not shy away from it once it was bestowed on her.

In similar fashion, communities don’t brand themselves; their customers do. As so many destinations have been impacted and devastated throughout COVID closures, protests, violence, and natural disasters, a renewed realization of a destination’s true customer base has emerged.

Branding places can no longer be one-dimensionally focused on visitors and the products they seek. One strategy for this is to develop a brand that connects to the talents, personalities and diversity of local residents. Place promises (brands) that reflect the people who reside there are now able to double down on that connection.

Passionate Minds is a talent-based brand that illustrates the promise of Raleigh and the numerous communities of Wake County, North Carolina to both visitors and residents. It was built to capture the innovative spirit of the makers economy embedded there. Flexibility is its core strength as it continually evolves to the personalities that shape the distinctive character of the area. It was developed long before the challenges of 2020, but this flexibility gives it renewed strength and purpose in this current time.

This type of resident-focused branding is often not about a physical product or distinctive physical offering. Those elements are pivotal to defining a place for a prospective visitor and continue to be important.

The Passionate Minds example shows us that destinations that want to expand on their role in supporting the greater community can and should do so by harnessing the self-assuredness and personalities of the people that makeup the place.

This requires that future destination image studies be both inwardly and externally focused. It also requires that these image studies be infused with resident sentiment results, as well as an understanding of the community’s culture. This research should not solely focus on feelings towards tourism, although that is vitally important. It must examine those aspects of the community that produce the greatest pride, build connections between why people live there and why others visit there.

The craft of building these community connections in an open, truthful and unwavering manner will drive future interest and support for the role of destination organization to which they are now attached. By starting these conversations, destination leaders can confidently embrace both “who” and “what” these places are.

The legacy of Justice Ginsburg grew from the impassioned defense of her beliefs and how they defined her. By turning brands inward, destinations can seize on the diversity that defines them and the people that represents.

It is time to be NOTORIOUS.

Clarity of Place exists to guide and measure destination contributions to community value and quality of place.