The Naples Brand

Can countries or regions have a brand?  You bet.

Anything or anyone can have a brand—even places.  Take Italy.  The mere mention of Tuscany evokes an image of the good life—sipping wine in a hilltop villa surrounded by cypress trees and lush vineyards.  Naples, on the other hand, brings to mind purse thieves in a noisy, Vespa-populated city with the Camorra (local mafia) casting its shadow over all.

Under the Tuscan Shadow

Tuscany has a great brand that has been carefully cultivated and helped along by such popular books as Under The Tuscan Sun.  Whereas Naples has done little to position its city in a positive and inviting way.

Having visited Naples four times last year and again a few weeks ago, I have been completely charmed by the city—from attending Don Giovanni at one of the world’s grand opera houses,  to eating the world’s best pizza at an outdoor café in a music-filled piazza, to walking along the beautiful marina adorned with ancient castles and a large Mt. Vesuvius on the horizon.

Yet, when I mention Naples as a travel destination to acquaintances, they look at me askance because they associate the Naples brand with being dirty, gritty, wallet-snatching and filled with dangerous mafioso-types.  Yes, you can find all of the above in Naples—especially in bad areas that tourists should avoid..

Guiding the Market

But , positioning is about guiding how the market thinks about your brand in comparison to other alternatives.  There is not another place in the world like Naples.  For those who have “been there and done that” in Tuscany, exploring an exciting and different milieu with the incomparable Neapolitan love of life, music and women could be just the ticket.  Throw in the beautiful bay, great castles, heavenly pizza, to-die-for Pompeii exhibits at the archeological museum (not to mention being a springboard to the Amalfi Coast), and you have yourself a winner.

For companies who are not in the travel business, the take-away from this brief example should be that you can always reposition yourself in a compelling manner despite negative perceptions.  When I was involved in an Italian travel business, we sent many tourists to Naples and the surrounding area by repositioning the destination in a positive and attractive light.  However, it would have made it a lot easier if the Naples government played a more active role in positioning, and tied their positioning strategy to their execution and delivery of their brand.  Believe it or not, the Camorra and Naples tourism do not have to be mutually exclusive.


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