A STUDY is underway to better understand ‘today’s Wollongong’ and planning for future marketing of the city.
Conducted by Jessica Baxter, a PhD student at the University of Wollongong’s Institute for Innovation in Business and Social Research (IIBSoR), the study involved in-depth interviews with external opinion-leaders who have expertise in areas such as tourism, business and the arts.
The study is jointly being undertaken by Wollongong City Council and the university.
“A place branding strategy should be founded on a current understanding of the internal and external perceptions of an area,”Ms Baxter said.
“Based on this, strategies can be developed that focus on addressing the negatives and promoting the positives”.
Ms Baxter had already conducted research into how residents view their city, when the Council commissioned further research to understand perceptions of Wollongong from those living outside the city, as part of a “Brand Wollongong” initiative being driven by Council and involving several key regional stakeholders.
Council’s Place Marketing Program Manager Jeremy Wilshire said there was plenty of information available on what residents thought of Wollongong, but not so much on what relevant external opinion leaders thought of Wollongong.
“We needed to fill this gap, as these two groups can come to very different conclusions,” he said.
Several strengths were identified such as the area’s beaches and natural assets, its proximity to Sydney, the emergence of the knowledge services sector, and its cultural diversity.
“In isolation, perhaps none of those are seen as unique, but it is the combination – all within an hour of a global city – that should give us a strong presence in the market if we establish and champion a unified brand for the region”, Mr Wilshire said.
By combining the findings from this research and Ms Baxter’s earlier research, the Council has a stronger foundation to develop marketing strategies.
According to Ms Baxter, residents are regularly interviewed in regard to their beliefs about the city they live in, but rarely is it combined with studying non-residents’ views.
“We may find that other cities follow in Wollongong’s footsteps, and decide to conduct similar studies which will enable them to develop a framework which can be used for their marketing and branding purposes”, she said.
The findings will aid the development of consistent and unified messages promoting the city, as well as complementing the major events strategy recently endorsed by Council.
“The academic expertise and student resources available to the city through the university are an incredible asset that we must continue to tap into,”Mr Wilshire said.
“It’s a win-win situation – the growth and credibility of the university is intrinsically linked to the growth and credibility of the city, so it’s imperative to work together and foster complementary initiatives.”