Place Branding: Distinctiveness Rules

Post by
December 6, 2023

Place branding hinges on the distinctiveness of a place.

Distinctiveness is what makes a place unique when you compare it to other places. It draws attention, which is one of our greatest assets and currencies.

Distinctiveness comes to life in the ether, too. You don’t necessarily have to see it. It’s your place’s ideology and core values, the “brand promise”—what the place promises to every single visitor, whether a resident or tourist, every single time.

When we do brand consulting, our process includes workshops that we call Soul Sessions. Soul Sessions involve a dozen or more interactive exercises that ask participants to dig deep, and peer into the nooks and crannies of their brand soul. To rule some things in, and some things out.

An example of this type of exercise was inspired by the work of branding guru Marty Neumeier. He called it The Only-ness Statement.

The Only-ness Statement


“{Our place} is the only  {defining category}.
   that  {key differentiator}.
   for  {specific audience}.
   because  {what we believe}.”

The Only-ness Statement is simple, but that’s what makes it difficult.


It forces you to define what you are; the category or space that you occupy.

Then, it asks you what makes you unique, one of a kind and, hopefully, irreplaceable. It’s what makes you distinct.

It challenges you to determine who you’re for—what are the characteristics of the people who belong in this space?

And finally, what we do we collectively believe in?

This is a way to identify your brand mountain, and plant your flag atop it. Something only you can claim.

The thing is, the Only-ness Statement has a lot of correct answers. Try to figure out as many of them as you can, and keep honing until you get to the sharpest, highest peak—the one that will matter most to your audience.

Interested in learning more about our process, or getting to know our team that facilitates our Soul Sessions? Hit us up.

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