How to reach your top 5 target groups [Place marketing-check]

by Basiel

The increasing competition between cities and municipalities causes a lot of pressure. That's why many cities and municipalities draw up a place marketing plan. Place marketing comprises the promotional activities for cities. It is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out as a city and to reach the target groups in a suitable way. This blog contains some tips and trends on how to reach your target audience as a city.

The target groups of place marketing:


A question that cities and towns often ask themselves is: "How can we attract and retain new inhabitants?". But is this the right question?

It has been proven several times that the location where someone lives influences the happiness of that person. A lot of people feel connected to the place where they live. Moreover, this place has a lot of influence on who we meet, where we possibly work and what we do in our spare time. Making the decision to move from one municipality to another isn't an easy decision.

Constantly targeting new inhabitants doesn't make a lot of sense since moving isn't an easy decision. That's why it is much more interesting to pay attention to the current inhabitants of your city. A better question is: "How can we make sure that our inhabitants are satisfied and want to stay?".

Warm place marketing can be used, for example, by taking care of public spaces. Other examples of warm place marketing are creating a pleasant environment to live or providing affordable childcare. It is also advisable to ensure that residents are proud of their municipality. This strengthens an inhabitant’s connection with his or her place of residence and reduces the number of moves to another municipality.

A case study of place marketing aimed at residents is the case of Roeselare's campaign #VANRSL, which you can translate into #FROMRSL. The aim was to make the inhabitants proud of their city. The result was that the inhabitants of Roeselare proudly wore the merchandise of their city. Curious of how they did this? Read the case study of Roeselare.


The inhabitants of Roeselare (Place Marketing, Merchandise Essentials)



A second target group that cities and municipalities want to reach are the visitors. Visitors is a broad term for tourists, city trippers and shoppers.

Each of them visits a city or municipality for different reason. Cold place marketing does work for this target group. A good example of this is the tower of Pisa. Tourists would never visit this monument by themselves. They only do this because of targeted marketing campaigns organized by the tourist industry and media agencies. A lot of photos and brochures were spread around the world and made this town attract millions of tourists every year.

British sociologist John Urry investigated why tourists go on holiday and visit certain places. He concluded that tourists are often looking for visual experiences that they cannot find at home or at work. Usually they have already seen images of a city or municipality before visiting it and want to visit it as a confirmation. It is therefore important that your city is seen if you target visitors.

A good example of a place marketing campaign aimed at visitors is the "Nothing beats Groningen" campaign. In this campaign, several commercials were broadcast on TV.

Video of the campaign:


Another important target group are companies. They are the ones that offer employment to the local population. Just like the inhabitants, organisations don't move that often. Moreover, 94% of the relocating organisations remain in their own region and 75% of them even in their own municipality. As you can see, moving is also a tough decision for entrepreneurs. It often involves a large amount of money and it also has an impact on the business activity itself. That is why it is more interesting to target this group in a way where you satisfy and retain the companies in your city.

A city or municipality can do this, for example, by improving accessibility and providing support in finding personnel. It can also organise activities to encourage local merchants.

An example of a place marketing campaign is 'Bedrijvig Vasse'. This Dutch village is known as a real entrepreneurial village. They wanted to stimulate entrepreneurial initiatives with this campaign

Video of the campaign:


Because of the shift towards a knowledge economy, students have become one of the most important target groups for place marketing. Students can be divided into 2 different groups. First, there are the creative people who are committed to creativity in the local economy. On the other hand, there are the students who possess knowledge.

Young people who study are more inclined to move. It is noteworthy that a large number of them, moves after graduating to surrounding cities because they think that the chances of finding a job will increase. In order to prevent this 'brain drain', place marketing is the best tool to solve this problem

Next to this, it's important to realise that traditional marketing won’t work for this target group. You need to approach them differently. For example, students can be approached effectively by a city when the city starts working closely together with educational institutions and businesses.

A good campaign aimed at the students can be found in Eindhoven. The city and the local university are working together to provide more support for student activities, to set up a website and to organise debates.


Students at a festival (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)



Investors are those who invest in the growth of the city. Every city or municipality wants to attract money because this doesn’t only create opportunities for the city but it also creates chances for other target groups. After all, place marketing is a complex process in which everything is interconnected. A city or municipality must always take all its investors into account.

This target group can be attracted by developing an investor friendly environment. This can be done by making the administrative procedures easier and by providing the necessary support. Once this environment has been created, the chance of success for successful projects is greater.

To appeal to investors, you can, just like the city of Ghent, set up a platform where you can highlight your city’s trump cards.


North Sea Port (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


In a nutshell: what is the best approach each target group?

  • Inhabitants: warm place marketing in which solidarity and pride are key elements.
  • Visitors: cold place marketing in which an experience is created.
  • Companies: warm place marketing in which entrepreneurship is stimulated.
  • Students: warm place marketing where partnerships with schools and businesses are made
  • Investors: cold place marketing by making an investor friendly environment 

Place marketing: ultimate checklist

A good place marketing policy contains more than a targeted strategy for your target groups. Discover below everything you need to know about this instrument: 

Place marketing, the ultimate checklist (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


About Merchandise Essentials

In 2015 Merchandise Essentials consisted out of two young guys with big dreams. Working out of their parents’ living room they started turning those dreams into goals.

The living room became a 600m2 office space with a showroom. The two man team turned into a workforce of more than 30 young and talented individuals who are now designing and producing merchandise for brands and businesses in 43 countries.


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