The success of a branding strategy is inevitability different for each stakeholder involved. The Board, marketing, community leaders, tourism improvement districts, hotels, restaurant associations, and local business will all have different ways of thinking, prioritizing, and evaluating what they define as “success.” Value can be measured by, for example, looking at the direct bottom-line impact, or by looking at the impact on the value of the brand (visitor perception). To be effective in measuring the success of branding, the criteria for assessing value must first be agreed upon amongst all the stakeholders involved.
So where do we measure? There are many different metrics for measuring the success: commercial value, emotional and sensory appeal, or perhaps economic, cultural, political and visitation results. In business, we drive for quantitative measurements, which are typically monitored short-term, as quarterly benchmarks. We call this "hard" criteria -- measurements using development costs, capital budget, event attendance, rooms sold, annual growth in visitors and increase in market share. But what most don’t acknowledge is that branding sits more comfortably with qualitative measures, or what we call "soft" criteria -- such as organizational learning, improved partnerships and processes, better destination image, popular recall and clear communication.
But the reality is that most stakeholders want to know three things about any business expenditure:
1) How much money is generated?
2) How much will market share increase?
3) And what shareholder value has been created?
So merging both the "hard" criteria, such as money generated and market share, with the "soft" criteria, such as brand recognition, co-op partnership value, and pro-active promotion, will help. The right balance of metrics will help any destination measure branding success effectively and manage the expectations of all shareholders.