Branding isn’t just for products like toothpaste and sodas. It is also an essential element to help a shipping port have a strong presence in a very competitive global marketplace. Some ports seem to operate under the assumption that they only need be up and running in order to attract business. The underlining thought being “where else are the ships going to go?”
Nonetheless, branding a port’s identity can help build on a solid reputation and open the doors for new business. It’s all about taking a “forward looking” approach to port operations. For a port operation to develop a comprehensive branding strategy, they first have to identify their customers. This isn’t just about continuing the relationships that have already been established; this also requires meeting the needs of new and potential clients. What are they going to be looking for from a port? Is it about the volume of business it can handle? Safety concerns? Environmental impact? All of those elements can be part of a port operations brand.
A key component of marketing shipping ports is managing expectations. A company has to be able to deliver on the promises it makes to its customers. In the shipping industry, that could come down to a matter of successfully handling traffic. Can you consistently offload and process containers in the amount of time you’ve estimated? Meeting expectations supports your brand and that can be highlighted in all types of marketing materials. Consider FedEx’s slogan, “When it positively has to be there overnight.” That is a simple promise to make when you consider the services they offer, yet it is what FedEx’s entire business is built around. A port should strive for that same approach in their branding efforts.
Assessing the competition is also key in helping a port develop a strong brand. What is your port operation offering that is different from your competitor? This type of approach is important for smaller operations who are hoping to step up into the big leagues. You need to find a way to stand out from the pack.
This doesn’t mean you should overreach. Many ports like to position themselves as a global and local type of operation. Can you be both? Actually, you can. However, it will help to build upon one of those facets before going overboard. For instance, if you can establish open communication with local community leadership on issues such as infrastructure expansion and its environmental impact, you’re creating a brand that proves your commitment to your business’s community. That is a positive message that can be built upon for a global audience.
A company’s history can also play a vital role in brand identity. If a port can find a way to tell their story in a compelling manner, then foreign customers will appreciate the longevity and dependability of that operation. Experience matters and that is what should be conveyed through any branding message.
Revitalizing a port’s brand isn’t the type of project that should be undertaken internally. There are many successful marketing companies that can help a port reshape and reimagining their brand. Those same consultants can plan out an entire campaign and provide the support to launch those marketing strategies. Try to name several port operations. Chances are the ones that are at the top of the list are also the ones who have done the most work with their branding efforts.
In the end, the time spent carefully thinking and planning out the brand of your port will be worth the investment if it means more customers.