Shopping Center Branding | Santa Monica Place Reopens

Two years and $265 million later, Santa Monica Place reopened Friday morning, with several thousand shoppers pouring in to get a first look at the newly remodeled shopping center.

“Finally, finally they’ve done something to improve,” said Cyndi Walters, 30, a nurse from Santa Monica. “It was just so run down and boring. This is a big, huge difference.”

Los Angeles Times

Place Branding | Conservation Marketers Choose Land Over Beast

Some people are starting to wonder whether the one-by-one approach to conservation is really the right solution. With many predicting the extinction of thousands of species, Bob Smith, a researcher in conservation at the University of Kent in Britain, argues that targeting individual species is too narrow. He praises the recent trend toward identifying and branding entire regions as “flagship areas”.

Conservation International, based in Arlington, Virginia, has its biodiversity hotspots: (“the most remarkable places on earth are also the most threatened” is their slogan). These include the tropical Andes, the Brazilian Atlantic forests and Africa’s Cape floristic region. The World Wide Fund for Nature, based in Gland, Switzerland, boasts that it is “working for conservation of the world’s most fabulous places”, which it called “global ecoregions”.

The Economist

Tourism Branding | So Where The Bloody Hell Are You?

One of my favorite Web sites, Best Rejected Advertising, includes a summary of last year’s controversy over a Tourism Australia campaign, which featured the provocative slogan “So where the bloody hell are you?”

The spots were subjected to restrictions in both Great Britain (over the word “bloody”) and Canada (over the word “hell”) and were vigorously defended by Australian Tourism Minister, Fran Bailey:

“The regulator is out of touch with British opinion – based on our research and the initial feedback the British are loving our cheeky sense of humour.”

Speaking as a proud former resident of Sydney, I imagine this was a “good problem to have”, as it reinforced Australia’s position as the most fun-loving, free-wheeling member of the Commonwealth. In other words, a great place to vacation.

A recent story in Melbourne’s The Age suggested that the campaign, contrary to conventional wisdom, has been a qualified success, and a lightly-tweaked Web site was relaunched today.

Destination Branding | The New Hollywood

In addition to its recent article on the resurgence of Culver City, California, The New York Times recently featured a great story on the rebirth of a much more famous Los Angeles neighborhood — Hollywood.

As anyone who live here knows, Greater Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse place.  From the Westside to the Eastside, from the Valley to the OC, LA is the most multi-cultural city in the world.

For the better or worse, though, the Los Angeles brand IS Hollywood.  The Hollywood sign is its primary symbol, and Hollywood and Vine is its mythical center.  It’s great to see then that Hollywood itself is being revitalized — it bodes well for Los Angeles as a whole.

Destination Branding | Culver City

The New York Times (surprisingly) has a wonderful story on the reemergence of Culver City as L.A.’s newest food and art mecca. Anchored by the historic Sony Pictures Studios (once MGM) and the re-purposed old Helms Bakery building (now a vibrant design center), the once down-on-its-luck neighborhood is L.A.’s newest Westside hotspot, full of art galleries, architectural firms, and eclectic restaurants

I’ve got strong ties to Culver City.  My maternal grandparents lived just across the border in Mar Vista, my paternal grandfather was a chauffeur for MGM, my father was a propmaker there, I earned my M.B.A. at Loyola Maryount University (which sits on the bluffs above it), and my favorite treat as a youngster was a Helms Bakery doughnut fresh off one of their iconic yellow-and-blue trucks.

When you think about it, it should come as no surprise that Culver City has made a comeback. It’s ideally situated just east of the diverse attractions of Venice and Marina del Rey, in between the now-upscale cities of Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach (my greatly-changed hometown). It’s freeway-close to LAX and the rest of the Westside. And it’s still (relatively) affordable.

The city itself has made some wise decisions, actively promoting this kind of development and positioning itself as “The Heart of Screenland,” complete with 1950s-style street signs and palm-lined boulevards. If you’re in town, it’s well-worth a visit.