In football stadiums, in TV commercials, in subways stations, on trucks, along streets – you can encounter Coca Cola advertisements everywhere. Coca Cola is an omnipresent brand worldwide – supposedly to be the most widely known expression after “ok.” Every year, the company spends a high three-digit million dollar amount for marketing. If there is one product brand in the world people from West to East and North to South instantly recognize, it is Coca Cola (–similar to McDonald’s as THE corporate brand–).
Disregarding long-term developments, I would ask: Would it make any difference if Coca Cola stops sponsoring some of the major sports events (for instance, the Summer Olympics or the US National Football League) while keeping its exclusive supply contracts with them? Does the Coca Cola corporation wastes money on unnecessary marketing at least in the short and medium term? Probably not since hundreds of experts are taking care of the marketing for the company.
But let us take this idea to the field of tourism in relation to place branding: the Eiffel Tower. It is the most visited paid monument worldwide. If you think of Paris and would have to visualize it, the Eiffel Tower is almost certainly the first image that pops up (maybe not for the Paris expert long-time visitor, but for the ‘average’ or stereotypical tourist). In contrast to the Coca Cola brand, the Eiffel Tower is not only replicated for any kind of souvenir, but it also is particularly characterized by a destination tourists are going to: It goes beyond the Coca Cola brand by being set in stone (or rather steel in this case). It is invariably placed in one spot.
This means that Paris most likely cannot ‘lose’ its top brand in physical/material terms. But could the city lose its top brand in immaterial terms? What would happen if the Eiffel Tower would not be promoted in commercials around the world while still being advertised in tourist info leaflets in Paris? Or in a broader sense: Do you have to advertise something that everyone (or a majority of people or the equivalent maximum amount of possible visitors) already knows? Would guests gradually ignore the Eiffel Tower when passing by? Could the Eiffel Tower lose its brand qualities just by not being used as a brand in international marketing campaigns? Or linked to an even broader level: How would people’s image of (the brand) Paris change?
Since I am not a product marketing expert, I do not know what would happen to Coca Cola. The same accounts for Paris and the Eiffel Tower. But I would really like to see if decision makers ever had the guts to spend less on marketing efforts for already well-known products/destinations etc. in order to find out how ‘economical’ their former investments had been. This might provide insights into place branding in relation to on-site advertisement, external campaigning, and costless marketing (brands used in movies, on postcards, or in other media by third parties). I have the feeling that more thoughts on this are necessary…