So You Want to Build Your Destination’s Brand from Scratch? Challenges and Opportunities

By on August 08, 2023

The success of any destination greatly hinges on its ability to stand out in a sea of competitors. For Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), creating and nurturing a strong destination brand is a crucial aspect of attracting tourists and driving economic growth. Building a brand from scratch can be a daunting task, but it also presents unique opportunities for DMOs to craft a narrative that resonates with travelers. On the most recent episode of the DMP, Renee Areng described her experience with creating a brand for Explore Brookhaven, Georgia. In this blog post, we will explore the challenges and opportunities DMOs face when embarking on the journey of building a brand for their destination from the ground up.


Establishing Identity

One of the most significant hurdles DMOs encounter when starting from scratch is defining the destination’s identity. A successful brand should reflect the unique culture, history and natural assets of the location. Identifying the essence of the destination and translating it into a compelling narrative can be a time-consuming and delicate process. As Renée Areng mentioned in the podcast, Explore Brookhaven, Georgia made an effort to survey residents and visitors to understand what makes the destination special. 

Limited Resources

Building a brand requires considerable resources, including financial investment and skilled personnel. For smaller or lesser-known destinations, this challenge can be even more formidable, as they often have restricted budgets compared to popular tourist hotspots. Striking a balance between impactful marketing efforts and cost-effectiveness becomes crucial. Feeling intimidated? Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day! Destinations should start small and gradually build their brand with the resources they have. 

Competing with Established Brands

In an industry where destinations with well-established brands are already vying for travelers’ attention, DMOs starting from scratch face an uphill battle. Gaining visibility and carving out a distinct position in a crowded marketplace demands innovative and strategic marketing initiatives. Destinations should focus on marketing to a unique niche and expand their efforts from there. 

Adapting to Evolving Trends

The travel industry is constantly evolving, with new trends and technologies influencing travelers’ preferences. For a new destination brand, staying relevant and flexible enough to adapt to changing dynamics can be a perpetual challenge. Don’t be afraid to change the plan if need be. Flexibility is key.


Authenticity and Creativity

Building a brand from scratch allows DMOs to leverage the authenticity of their destination however they would like. Authenticity has become a significant driver for modern travelers seeking unique and meaningful experiences. DMOs can infuse creativity into their brand message, using it as a canvas to highlight the distinct offerings that set their destination apart.

Digital Marketing and Social Media

The rise of digital marketing and social media has revolutionized destination branding. DMOs can positively exploit these platforms to engage directly with potential travelers, tell their destination’s story and build a loyal online community. These channels provide cost-effective opportunities for exposure and allow destinations to reach audiences locally and globally.

Collaborations and Partnerships

Partnering with local businesses, influencers and other stakeholders can significantly amplify the impact of a destination’s brand-building efforts. Collaborative marketing initiatives not only pool resources but also enhance credibility and exposure. For example, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has made being an autism-friendly destination part of its brand. To increase their credibility, they have partnered with Champion Autism Network to become the first autism-friendly certified destination in the country. 

Sustainable and Responsible Tourism

In an era where sustainability is gaining paramount importance, DMOs have the chance to create a brand that aligns with responsible tourism practices. By promoting sustainable experiences and emphasizing the preservation of cultural and natural heritage, destinations can attract conscious travelers seeking meaningful and impactful journeys. Many DMOs, such as San Juan County, Utah, include Recreate Responsibly messaging in all of their newsletters and email communications to build this part of their branding.  


Building a brand from scratch offers DMOs the opportunity to weave compelling stories around their destination. As touched on in the podcast, people respond the strongest to a genuine brand. Storytelling resonates deeply with audiences, forming emotional connections that can influence travel decisions. Sharing local tales, legends and personal experiences can create a strong sense of place and captivate potential visitors.

While building a destination brand from scratch is undoubtedly a challenging task, DMOs can turn these obstacles into stepping stones for success. By focusing on authenticity, creativity, strategic collaborations and leveraging digital platforms, DMOs can build a strong and resonant brand that draws travelers seeking unique experiences. Navigating the ever-changing landscape of the travel industry requires adaptability and a commitment to sustainable and responsible practices. Through effective storytelling and a clear understanding of their destination’s identity, DMOs can create a brand that stands the test of time and leaves a lasting impression on travelers from around the world.