Place branding combines national” and destination” branding – two distinct concepts that are undeniably interrelated. It is understood that national branding has a purpose of generating a positive image of a country that wants to attract investment, export and employment.  Whereas destination branding is focused on creating a positive image to attract tourists across different target markets. When speaking of branding, one must understand that we are not only speaking of the logo itself. Any branding consists of its visual identity, sure. But it also engulfs the story behind it as well as the strategy on how to go about creating recognition first and desirability second to consumption as the final outcome.

Armenia is all about emotional connections, especially its residents (old and new) and its widespread and large diaspora. It has an extensive and rich history. It is resilient with a strong character and an unparalleled will to survive. Armenia has many meanings and for a variety of segments – very different for all. Any Armenia “Destination Branding” effort must capture the amalgamation of these feelings and meanings to imagine Armenia as a desirable destination, which inevitably injects new energy, investment and more innovative tourist offers.

Armenia has invested in innovating itself from infrastructure to culture, science and technology, and sustainable development. It is now time to package the country’s tourism offer and demonstrate its place in the global market by building on its strong potential. It is time to create a vehicle to connect Armenia and the world and in doing so help develop the tourism industry.

Spain, or rather Barcelona city, as one of the most visited destinations, can serve as a success case of learning for emerging countries like Armenia. In 2019 alone, Barcelona received 12 million visitors according to the National Statistics Institute series, more than the number of actual residents of the city (4.6 million). Considering it’s newly designed logo from 2019, we observe that the Wordmark brand does not focus on specific visuals or icons, rather on the name of the city utilizing a unique typography that makes it stand out and distinctive from its competition. It took the agency 3 years of research and development to offer the city with its new, clever and interactive brand. Summa Branding agency (Founder-CEO Conrad Llorens) is now a renowned name in destination branding following the successful launch of this brand.

Over the past decades, Barcelona has instinctively generated love, connectivity and engagement by adhering to its city’s call and the demand of its tourists (consumers). In this case, the marketing package becomes fully compliant to that of the demand of the market. Let me share my personal experience. On my most recent visit to Barcelona (this is my second visit to the city over the past few years), I could not help but admire one particular repetitive element. Many of the readers of this article have already visited or at least scrolled through photo galleries of Barcelona, and have come across the flower; you know the one. That flower found on the slabs of the sidewalks have become so emblematic that souvenir shops, artists/artisans and mass marketers have reproduced it in an amalgam of products for consumption. This has allowed for the creative industries such as product designers, fashion and architecture creators, artisans and more to capitalize on the opportunity to market the element in all forms and types of quality of products – from high end leather bags to souvenir nicknacks. This flower is called the Panot. Yes, it even has a name. These tiles were created by Escofet & Cía – the company that won the City Council pavement competition back in 1916. What does this have to do with the branding you say? Everything is my answer. Although the new brand reflects the diversity and creativeness of the city and has “contrasts that coexist harmoniously, which enriches and stimulated the city and its citizens” (as per Llorens), the slabs offer a historic and solid grounds of existence and the continuity that the city offers to all generations. The story, or rather the history of the city, which dates back to millennia, is so rich and diverse that it cannot leave anyone indifferent. From its christian and islamic invaders to its strong Catalan roots that make the current history so vibrant and captivating render the city as a product that is desirable and highly inspirational.

High end design products made in leather

Yes, it even has a name. These tiles were created by Escofet & Cía – the company that won the City Council pavement competition back in 1916. What does this have to do with the branding you say? Everything is my answer. Although the new brand reflects the diversity and creativeness of the city and has “contrasts that coexist harmoniously, which enriches and stimulated the city and its citizens” (as per Llorens), the slabs offer a historic and solid grounds of existence and the continuity that the city offers to all generations. The story, or rather the history of the city, which dates back to millennia, is so rich and diverse that it cannot leave anyone indifferent. From its christian and islamic invaders to its strong Catalan roots that make the current history so vibrant and captivating render the city as a product that is desirable and highly inspirational.

In the case of the Barcelona branding, the agency claimed that the most challenging part is the implementation of the strategy. It requires aligning the engagement of all actors from public institutions, tourism-focused businesses to the general public who must become ambassadors of the brand. In my and Deem Communications agency experience, we concur that this part is indeed the most challenging for any city, thus also in Armenia. While working on the Branding Gyumri project, our team realized that the Armenian public needs maturity to better understand their role in the branding process of their town, city or country. The Armenian society is a critical one. It has self-taught to criticize and reject initiatives thrown their way.  Perhaps due to its recent history of harsh economic and socio-political challenges, maybe the post-soviet and post-earthquake recovery, or simply because it is much harder to create or build an idea, a vision and much easier, especially in today’s available digital platforms, to gain followers and likes by being sarcastic and comically destructive in social media comments – as is the reality of social media trends everywhere. This thought takes me back to what Winston Churchill had once claimed, “To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years; to destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.” This being said, as a creator and thinker, I believe it is my duty to generate thought and ideas, for one day, our society will learn to grasp the concept of branding and jump on the bandwagon. And in doing so, Armenia will beacon a beacon of tourism destination with a unique and distinctive brand with the buy in of its population.

I write this piece from my hotel room in Barcelona. I am inspired and captivated. I feel alive. I want to create and hope to one day contribute to the destination branding of Gyumri, Yerevan and Armenia – as I feel it is my destiny!

Raffi Niziblian

Creator of Dreams

Deem Communications