Photography: supplied by Hoyne

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Photography: supplied by Hoyne

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Photography: supplied by Hoyne

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Photography: supplied by Hoyne

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A logo is not a brand! Let’s get that out of the way, right now. It is often frustrating to see people confuse the two. When it comes to creating a brand for a community – whether that be a town, emerging suburb, greenfield site, or a new development in an established but languishing location - branding (or re-branding) can create a sense of belonging and purpose from early on.

Branding is done correctly – by combining research, strategy, creativity, and long-term investment – it is actually a reflection of the spirit or personality of a community. It can connect directly with existing residents, potential buyers, and local business owners. It can help instil a sense of community pride, increase community cohesion, attract business investment, and improve economic performance.



Since branding is not about a logo, it is also not about flags in car parks, or billboards along highways, or posters in bus shelters during new sales phases for residential projects. Effective branding - delivering long-lasting results and economic benefits - must be meaningful, inspiring, protected, encouraged, and maintained.

When it comes to fledgling communities, branding should establish a personality and point of view so people can jump on board, feel part of a very appealing story, then reflect that optimism and ambition in their own lives and actions. With flagging communities, the aim is to reinstall people’s pride in place, and see new expressions of confidence and energy return to and thrive in the streets where they live.  



More often branding is about stories. Most of us want to feel like we’re part of something bigger, special, and unique. Hence, we paint our faces and head to the football with mates or we share family holiday snapshots on Facebook.

Every area has its story - but sometimes that heritage or distinction has been undervalued, belittled, or forgotten. Most Place-making precinct and development branding is cookie-cutter. To brand a place you actually need to determine how a community wants to see itself. This refers to all members of the community, including various age groups, socio-economic categories, retail, local businesses, and major employers. It’s about tapping into that distinct persona and figuring out how to bring it to life. Achieving this entails drawing from aspirational desires while breathing new life into heritage or historical aspects. This is how you create a distinct identity - which is authentic, not manufactured.


"Branding should create an inspiring vision of a community, of how things will or should be, based on the facilities and activities in place or in progress. "

Old school ‘house-and-land’ marketing relied on kids riding bikes with their images set against wide-open spaces. In terms of facilities on offer, beyond houses and roads, these developments might be allocated one convenience store or a utilitarian café at best, and everyone needed a car to get anywhere of interest. People bought in for the price - not because that’s how they wanted to live. Isolated and poorly serviced is not how any of us wants to live. It is also not a scenario that attracts or encourages entrepreneurs, vibrant business districts, or thriving cultural precincts.   

Branding should create an inspiring vision of a community, of how things will or should be, based on the facilities and activities in place or in progress. We need to inspire progressive businesses to set up shop, where they can meet the needs of a community, but also grow and prosper as a commercial entity. These businesses should be part of the initial development plan, brought on early and nurtured. A good example of this can be seen at Woodlea, 30kms west of Melbourne. Eventually home to 7000 households, with a construction span of around 15 years, the developers (Mirvac and Victoria Investments and Properties) know how seriously Melburnians take their food and coffee. Go West Café - from successful and fashionable restaurateur, Jason M Jones, and his partners - launched simultaneously with Woodlea’s display village and massive adventure playground. While Go West has already been favourably reviewed by Broadsheet, the urbane foodie’s bible, the playground has received the thumbs-up from parenting blogs.

By setting up a community to have a strong, cohesive message, you make it attractive and inspiring to existing residents and businesses as well as potential visitors, new residents, and new commercial opportunities. Everything becomes interconnected - be it employment, education, transport, and other infrastructure.


A new city centre for Maroochydore in Queensland is one of my favourite examples of how branding is now being leveraged at the very beginning of the development phase in order to establish a really strong message, engage the local community, and attract business from interstate and overseas.

We are working with SunCentral, a corporation set up by the Sunshine Coast Council to oversee the development of what we’ve positioned as ‘The Bright City’. As the capital of the Sunshine Coast region, Maroochydore has grown organically with very little planning.  Currently, it’s perceived as being a holiday destination, with a relaxed lifestyle.  The people of Maroochydore are warm and friendly, but the town lacks diversity and a young population. As soon as kids are old enough, they leave for work prospects in the cities or to live somewhere with more energy, where restaurants are open past 10pm! Our challenge is to shift the perception of Maroochydore away from being a sleepy seaside town to being an energised, thriving, future-focused city.

The new city centre is a 53-hectare development, and the project is unique as it is Australia’s only CBD greenfield development within an existing urban area.  It provides the opportunity to create a city of the future, where sustainable design and state-of-the-art technology connects a flourishing subtropical coastal region to the rest of the country and the world.

Approximately 500,000 people are expected to call the region home by 2036 and its heart will be Maroochydore’s vibrant new commercial, residential, cultural and entertainment precinct, purpose-built to cater for the region’s growth. Prime commercial zones will sit alongside dining and entertainment precincts. Efficient public transport, new city streets, and a network of paths for cyclists and pedestrians will encourage the city’s workers, residents, and visitors to move seamlessly from work to play and day to night. More than 2000 residential apartments will be a five-minute walk from the CBD’s professional and business services as well as hotels, restaurants, shopping, and waterways.

Most importantly for the brand positioning, the new city will also be ‘smart’ with state-of-the-art technology providing digital solutions for street lighting, car parking, water, power, and signage, and will be serviced by an underground automated waste collection system. The idea is to position Maroochydore as a breeding ground for success. We are creating a prosperous ecosystem where people will be proud, and where business can thrive.

This is a great example of a community that wants to evolve. There is a collective desire for a better future and the brand is utilised to illustrate the vision, setting forward a blueprint to achieve that success. It also demonstrates how clever thinking in the early stages will substantially speed up the process of securing investment, and creating social and economic benefits for decades to come.

This article is an excerpt from 'The Place Economy' by Hoyne due to be published in 2016. For more information, follow the link